Performance Appraisal or Bargaining?

The gap between self and manager rating has always intrigued me. What triggers this deficit: self-rating of employee higher than the manager? As we go through the appraisal season, at least in India, I am reminded of an interaction with my team member from yesteryears.

I worked with this person for five years. I was his manager and conducted his mid and yearly appraisals. What amazed me was that every single year and for almost every single goal, his self-rating was one level higher than my rating.

I wondered about this consistent gap. So, in the last year that we worked together, I asked him, “Over last five years, we have consistently seen this gap of 1 level, it rarely goes to 2 levels. Isn’t it interesting…. I wonder why?”

I shared a good rapport with him. After a brief pause, he sheepishly responded, “I knew what my rating should be. But I pegged it little higher because I believe managers tend to give a lower rating. So, if I peg it higher, the reference will be higher (framing bias ), so I will get the rating I deserve. If I rate at the level I deserve, you may rate me even lower!!”

Wow! I was speechless for some time! Performance appraisal rating, unfortunately in this person’s mind, was akin to bargaining in street shopping…

I really hope not many people feel this way. Have you ever come across a strange reason like this?

What in your view are some of the key reasons for the deficit between employee and manager rating?  

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