It is a common theme we hear when coaching: “My boss doesn’t really know what I do.” Unfortunately, more often than not, the evidence supports this. Let us look at the proof.
When we (DecisionWise) conduct 360-degree feedback surveys, or take a look at performance reviews, we often find a clear disconnect between the ratings provided by a supervisor and those provided by other groups of raters. For example, as we examine the feedback provided by a person’s peers, she may have received stellar reviews from her peers. However, as we look at the scores provided by the supervisor, her supervisor rates her performance as merely “average.”
Even more common, perhaps, is the disconnect between the boss and the person being rated. The boss may see the person as an “average performer,” yet the person being rated may see herself as “excellent.”
As we speak with supervisors throughout the world, most would claim to have a fairly solid understanding of how his/her direct reports perform. However, the evidence shows a significant disconnect.
In the past year we have culled through more than 20 million employee survey responses. On nearly every question dealing with performance and communication, we see a significant disconnect between the way the boss sees performance and the way the employee sees performance.
Why the disconnect?
There are numerous possibilities, but we’ve found these five to be most common:
Matrix organizations— In today’s organizations, many people report (whether formally or informally) to multiple departments or supervisors. Because of this, communication about what is getting done is often not readily disseminated across the matrix, so a supervisor may only see a portion of the employee’s true performance.
Differing viewpoints— A boss may see an employee in one setting or light. However, that same employee’s peers or subordinates may see that individual in completely different settings. Performance, then, often depends on the setting in which we see that individual.
Unvoiced expectations— Bosses are notorious for saying one thing and expecting another. When a supervisor has not made his/her performance expectations known to the employee, that same employee may think he/she is doing a stellar job, yet the boss is still seeing that his/her unmet unarticulated expectations are being met.
Differing priorities— Our work in 360-degree feedback shows us that supervisors often base performance evaluations on operational metrics, such as sales results, production, quality, attendance, and compliance. However, an individual’s peers and direct reports may focus more on non-operational performance, such as communication, teamwork, delegation, and mentoring. Bosses often put weight on factors that differ from others’ hot buttons.
Poor communication— Communication is really the “all-of-the-above,” in this case. Each of the above issues often stems from poor or inadequate communication. Fortunately, the same problem that caused this disconnect in the first place is also the same factor that can resolve the employee-boss performance disconnect.
Related: Do good leaders make good managers?
While this list is certainly not comprehensive, it covers some of the most common areas of disconnect. While nearly every supervisor we ask will indicate that he/she has a clear understanding of how their employees perform, the evidence suggests otherwise.
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