Not mentioned in Ellen Kolton's "The Rating Game" (Managing People, February) is the key value of self-appraisal -- namely, the impetus it provides for employees to take responsibility for assessing their performance. It is as much a copout for the subordinate to abdicate that judgment to his or her boss as it is for the boss to accept a subordinate's appraisal.

In our work with companies in the area of performance appraisal, we encourage both boss and subordinate to do independent appraisals of the subordinate's performance and then to compare notes before the final report is written. This makes the appraisal discussion the interactive, participative exchange that it ought to be, even though the final judgment must rest in the hands of the boss.


The author replies: I agree. Employee evaluations should be a two-way street, ideally nothing more than the formal version of what goes on every day between a boss and an employee. But the idea of asking people to do their own evaluations and then compare notes with the boss strikes me as asking for trouble. Even top performers get nervous before their evaluations. Why add another worry?

Even in a session in which the boss does most of the reviewing, there is still ample opportunity for the employee to respond to, elaborate on, or disagree with the observations. But if people are busy defending their positions, they are less apt to absorb the comments the manager has to offer.

Ellen Kolton