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Take Steps to Avoid Overly Inflated Performance Reviews

As 2017 comes to an end, many companies will perform their annual employee performance reviews. Companies typically do performance reviews at the beginning of the calendar or their fiscal year or at the employee’s anniversary with the company. No matter when you perform reviews, companies need to be careful that managers do not over rate their subordinates. Many managers (sometimes unconsciously) over rate the employees they are reviewing. There are numerous reasons this happens.

It is a common human failing – to overlook the deficiencies of an employee’s performance and, at the same time, emphasize and even exaggerate the strong points of the employee’s performance. The truth is that it may be better to have absolutely no performance reviews in a company rather than to have performance reviews that are inflated.

The problem that employment lawyers routinely see with inflated performance reviews is when a client moves ahead to finally terminate the difficult employee for severe performance related problems. Then, the client is horrified to look back over that employee’s personnel file and find that there are years of inflated performance reviews.

This disparity of course, creates a major credibility problem for the client. Here the client is saying that of course they did not discriminate when they terminated the employee for poor performance (but that employee’s personnel file is telling a very different story). The personnel file, supported by its inflated performance reviews, promotes a rosy picture of an outstanding employee.

Sometimes companies directly link performance reviews to increases in salary; therefore, managers may inflate their subordinates’ performance reviews in order to justify pay raises. No matter what the reason, below are some tips to help companies with this problem.


a. One helpful way to avoid inflated performance reviews is for a company to insist that every performance review includes “areas for improvement” and “strengths and weaknesses.”

b. Base the performance reviews on only objective, factual and job-related considerations. Focus on the job, not the person.

c. Connect performance to business objectives. Management should funnel down its goals and strategies to the individual employees.

d. Additionally, it is helpful if there is more than one person writing and reviewing the performance reviews. This often will provide a more “balanced approach.”

e. Have a meeting with the supervisors who will be performing the reviews and train them on the proper ways to conduct performance reviews – stressing that the company wants the reviews to be accurate and not over inflated.

These tips will help companies in conducting their performance reviews and lead to more accurate assessments of employees’ performance.

If you have any questions and/or would like additional information regarding the Illinois Freedom to Work Act, please contact Joseph H. Laverty at (563) 333-9102 or via email at

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