Performance evaluations are a must in any business. This is also true in law firms. No matter whether you evaluate employees yearly, semi-annually, or quarterly, you need to evaluate employees on some kind of regular basis. If you are not conducting evaluations, it is time to think long and hard about doing it.
Conducting evaluations is key in terms of telling employees where they are with their performance. It can help put employees on the path of being promoted, getting a raise, or, in the case of an attorney, becoming a partner someday. Employment evaluations are critical whether the employee is a lawyer, paralegal/legal assistant, or an administrative employee. Once completed, employment evaluations should be signed and kept in the employee’s personnel file.
As part of any employment evaluation, you should generally have employees first score and rate themselves. Having them self-analyze their own performance is vital. Having employees explain how they rated themselves is also important. In many instances, the employee might tell you things that they accomplished that you did not know or had not recalled.
After the employee has rated themselves, their law firm supervisor should then rate the employee. The law firm supervisor should then score the employee in terms of how they are doing. Of course, employment evaluations should provide both positives and areas where the employee needs to improve. The critique needs to be constructive, but it should also be fair and honest. The good and the bad should all be mentioned.
If you need a form of employment evaluation, you can find decent forms at various places online. You can certainly tweak these forms based on what is important within your law firm. However, you also would be wise to consult with an employment attorney as well to ensure that whatever evaluations you are using is appropriate for your law firm and the laws in your state.
One area, however, where lots of law firms can go awry is inflating employee scores on their employee evaluations. This can happen for all kinds of reasons.
Some law firm supervisors can just have a hard time giving any kind of constructive criticism in a face-to-face manner. Instead of just being honest about how the employing is doing, they can wimp out by overrating them because offering any kind of criticism is difficult.
Law firm supervisors also may worry that if they do not score employees higher than they deserve, it could cause a decrease in morale in the workplace. This is particularly true the more employees that are in the firm. In other words, many law firm supervisors can worry about employees talking about their evaluations. If one employee got a high score, and another a low score, they may worry that this can cause problems in the law firm.
Many law firm supervisors might worry as well that the employee might look for employment elsewhere if they do not score them highly. This can cause some law firms to score an employee higher than they should. This is particularly true where the law firm supervisor might not have a replacement waiting on deck.
Many law firm supervisors might theorize that giving a high scoring evaluation score can cause a mediocre or sub-par employee to perform well. It is not true. But the thought is that by scoring a mediocre or sub-par employee high, this can raise their morale and cause them to put forth greater effort. On the flip-end, they might worry that if they give low scores, the employee might stop trying.
Of course, there are other reasons a law firm supervisor might inflate the scores of an employee as well. But none of them are good reasons.
At the end of the day, law firm supervisors simply need to score and evaluate employees accurately. Overrating an employee is not a good path to go down for an abundance of reasons. If an employee deserves a particular score, that’s the score they should receive. And if there are areas where an employee is not performing well, they need to know about it in their evaluation.
Inflating employee scores does not cause the employee to have a true picture of how they are performing in the eyes of their supervisor. If an employee does not know where they need to improve, they cannot get better. Ultimately, this is not fair to that employee if they want a future in the law firm.
Further, if the law firm supervisor eventually decides that they need to move on, and let the employee go, that employee is likely to cite their performance evaluations as a source of confusion. They are likely going to wonder why they were let go when their last employment evaluation contained positive scores. This can cause the employee to be surprised, angry, or upset when they are let go.
This is why performance evaluations must be taken seriously. The scores and ratings given should be true and accurate. Certainly, employment evaluations should be constructive. They should cite the positive attributes of the employee’s performance. However, inflating scores is always a mistake.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.