British Psychological Society occupational conference: Staff evaluations 'subjective'

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MANAGERS are almost entirely subjective and often selfish when choosing staff for performance pay and even for redundancy.

When evaluating their subordinates they favour those who are good-looking, who belong to the same ethnic group and who share their values, a paper to be presented to the conference today says.

'Managers allow personal likes and dislikes to influence their ratings - and freely admit it,' Mark Cook of University College Swansea said yesterday. When called on to rate employees, managers often used the opportunity to 'further their own agenda, to polish their own image, to get rid of rivals and people they do not like and to teach trouble-makers a lesson. Managers have their own personal agendas when generating ratings.'

Staff who appeal to their superiors on a personal level achieve good ratings and therefore success, Mr Cook, of the university's personnel selection research group, said.

Because the evaluation of employee selection techniques was often based on the subsequent comments of managers, such research was 'distorted'. Mr Cook appealed to psychologists and managers to move away from the 'more of the same' approach in selection and promotion and to develop more objective techniques.

Even where there were objective criteria of performance, such as products made or goods sold, managers' ratings rarely correlated with such measures, Mr Cook said.

In between 60 and 80 per cent of cases it was not possible at the moment to arrive at objective measures of job performance. As a consequence, selection techniques commonly operated on a 'shaky basis'.

He added: 'Finding a criteria to evaluate a good worker is the Achilles' heel of personnel selection.' Scientific methods of choosing employees however were found to have a high correlation with subsequent performance when objective measures were available.