self evaluation

The goal of self-evaluation or self-assessment is to provide honest insights into how you perceive your performance and reflect on how others perceive your performance. But are we any good at rating our own performance review or evaluation? There is lots of evidence that says we aren’t.

For example, a study carried out in 1977 on professors showed that an amazing 94 per cent of them rated their performance better than their peers. 94 per cent! Of course, it’s impossible for nearly everyone to be better than average. You would think that professors would be well aware of that… Similar studies, conducted on teachers, truck drivers, software engineers and many more, show that professors aren’t the only ones fooling themselves. “While most people do well at assessing others, they are wildly positive about their own abilities,” says David Dunning, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has studied this for years. Two guys from the University of Florida think they know why this happens. They call it the “better than my average effect”. They maintain that we look at our best performances when rating ourselves and we look at others’ average when rating them.

All of this can create big problems when it comes to performance reviews or self-evaluation. Here is how we suggest you deal with it:

  • Don’t score your staff, use descriptors. We recommend five, well below expectations, below expectations, meeting expectations, above expectations and well above expectations.
  • Explain that meeting expectations are not like a C grade, it’s more like shooting par ….. pretty good.
  • Explain that your expectations are based on the knowledge, skill and experience of your staff and that some staff has more of it than others. The new guy has less experience than those in the company for a while so your expectations of him will be different while he is settling in.
  • Have a way to collaborate with managers. If one manager’s idea of “meets expectations” is much lower than everyone else then managers may markdown to that guy. In this case, performance reviews may actually reduce overall organization performance which would be a disaster. This is a particular risk when pay reviews and performance reviews are done at the same time.

How do you prevent the better than my average effect?



WorkCompass’s award-winning performance management software is built for progressive organisations. Some of the most successful organizations in the US use it to transform their appraisals from dreaded annual conversations focused on judging the past to ongoing coaching focused on improving performance for the future.

If you would like to learn more about the company and product contact us.