Ethical handling of employee evaluations has a critical nature within an organization. Most organizations take employee evaluation into account for such decisions as retention, advancement potential, assignment to special projects and eligibility for temporary duty positions that may qualify the employee for future permanent advances. In a well-handled circumstance, evaluations can even help in the identification and implementation of training geared to improve the employee’s value to the organization. Hence, employees have a major stake in management conducting evaluations ethically..
Business ethics demand that all employees have some form of performance appraisal that can both identify areas of less-than-optimal performance and can provide the employee some insights on how to improve and advance. Not providing this guidance is one of the foremost ethics breaches with performance evaluations.
Ethical issues with evaluations also involve how a manager conducts and applies them. Management acts unethically in giving cursory reviews. Such perfunctory evaluations give employees the impression either that their contributions are not valued or they have limited or no advancement potential. A cursory evaluation can also make an employee feel endangered even when she is, in fact, one of the organization’s most valued employees. The employee can also be left feeling that the evaluation is likely inaccurate and almost certainly meaningless because the manager is only doing it because he has to. More blatant ethics abuse occurs when the collective employee evaluation profile has signs of unequal treatment, such as discrimination based on race or gender.
A disconnect between managerial ethics perceptions and employee ethical perceptions occurs when the manager rating the employee uses one set of in-service ethics and the employee performs his work based on a different set of ethics. For example, an individual in a highly skilled technical position may see the filing of reports as a non-essential activity that takes away from technical work that has more value to the organization. A manager, however, may regard such reports as essential communications without which the manager cannot effectively assign other team members. Employee evaluation ethics demand that a manager ensure in advance through adequate communication that she and the employee understand the employee rating criteria in the same way.
While often perceived as a one-time event that occurs at a particular date, this is an erroneous perception of the employee evaluation. For a new-hire, the evaluation process begins at the outset of the first workday and continues through to the first probationary review. Starting with the outcome of the first probationary review, all future reviews within the same organization encompass the time from the most recent review to the next anticipated review. Ethical handling of the employee evaluation, therefore, starts with an accurate job description that clearly defines which job duties have an essential nature versus those that are nice but not required.
Ethical handling of the employee evaluation process also demands continuing follow-up based on the provisions of the job description. Such follow-up needs to include pro-active management counseling or consultation with all employees. These employee-manager dialogues should explore both expectations in the current job and actions that enhance advancement potential for each individual employee.