The Issues With Evaluations— A Necessary Evil That Needs To Be Dealt With

by | Jun 3, 2022 | Blog, Career, General, Professional Skills

Evaluations— they were a necessary evil of my job. I didn’t like writing them, I didn’t like giving them. My staff didn’t like getting them. So why did I do them? Two reasons: 1) Management thought that employees liked or needed feedback about how well they were performing their job, and 2) evaluations were usually tied to some kind of merit increase.

I wrote and gave the greatest number of evaluations when I was a pharmacy manager in my second hospital. This hospital also had the poorest evaluation system. These are the reasons why I did not care for this hospital’s evaluation system:

Poor timing. All my evaluations had to be written and given by April 1. I had 76 people (full-time, part-time, and per diem) in my department. It took a great deal of time to calculate scores, write comments and goals, and administer evaluations to 76 people. I needed to start working on my evaluations in January (three months early) so I could finish them by April 1st.

Poor scoring. To score my staff in the various scored categories, the scoring was 1 = poor, 3 = good, and 5 = outstanding. Quite often I wished there was a score of “4” (a little better than good but not quite outstanding) or a score of “2” (a little worse than good but not quite poor).
Furthermore, it was felt by upper management that in order for a person to get a “5” they had to be truly exceptional. One vice president felt that in order to get a score of “5”, a person had to go out and make it start raining. Another vice president commented that he felt that in order for a person to get a score of “5”, the person had to go out and make the rain stop.
This contradicted other hospital surveys, particularly those completed by patients. With those surveys, management attempted to coax patients to award scores of “5” through the use of buttons and fancy slogans (ie. strive for five).
Since “5s” were viewed as exceptional and “4s” were not an option, most individuals fell into the “3” or good category. Thus, it was not unusual to see evaluations with a plethora of “3s” throughout.

Tying in other concepts. Many times, evaluations were tied to merit or salary increases. In these situations, scoring came into play. I don’t know what I found more annoying. When two staff people got the same score— were they really both worthy of a score of 35? Or did I subconsciously score high on one category and then go lower on another category just to make them equal? Conversely, the other annoying issue came when the scores were different for two staff members. Thus, one staff member was awarded a 37 and the next one got a 35. Although two points may not seem like that much of a difference, it created a lot of animosity between the two staff members.

Another problem that my hospital put into practice was deducting percentages from merit increases in an effort to curb using excessive sick days. In other words, if my staff used between 4-6 sick days in a calendar year, a ½% point would be deducted from their merit increase. If my staff used 7 or more sick days per calendar year, then a 1% point would be deducted from their merit increase. Of course, exceptions were made for flu and other medical procedures. I don’t think that the threat of losing any percentage points off one’s merit increase altered a person’s sick call.

I felt that excessive sick calls should have been addressed while they were occurring. Excessive sick calls should not have been dealt with on an evaluation, four months after they happened.


Revising My Evaluations

Even though my hospital had its own template and procedures when it came to evaluations, I revised the evaluation and process for the better. I still had to tie it into the merit increase, though. Here’s what I did:

Competencies. I evaluated my staff on competencies rather than on vague, yet common concepts (ie productivity, initiative, teamwork). I broke down the job descriptions of my pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. I scored them on how well they performed their tasks.

Excel. I formatted the entire evaluation on an excel spreadsheet. I’ve seen too many evaluations where the evaluator had to add and divide several values in order to achieve a final score. This was a very time-consuming task. It could also lead to an incorrect final score. By putting the evaluation on an excel spreadsheet, the computer allowed me to quickly and accurately obtain a final score.

Interact with employees. Besides having an open-door policy, I walked around my department and talked to my staff every morning and afternoon. One of my bosses once told me, “You can’t manage people while sitting in your office.” I had to get out and interact with them.
I also met with each employee on a one-to-one basis every quarter. These meetings were more than fifteen minutes long. This way if there was an issue or a staff member needed assistance, it was addressed at that time. This prevented any surprises from appearing on an evaluation. This way, items could be addressed sooner rather than waiting several months later when the evaluation was given.

Staff longevity. This was the most difficult thing that I ever encountered when it came to my staff’s evaluations. I worked as a pharmacy manager for eleven years in my hospital. Most of my staff worked there for more than five years. In fact, I’d say that 90% of my staff worked there ten years or longer. It was very difficult to score and write evaluations (year after year) for someone who had been there for ten years or longer. Yet, it was necessary to provide evaluations for these employees since their merit increases and raises depended on them. Thus, I focused on projects and goals that these employees did throughout the year that benefited the pharmacy department.


Preparing Self-Evaluations

I had mixed feelings about self-evaluations. Usually, a self-evaluation involved two things. When I prepared my self-evaluation, first I scored myself. Most times the scoring involved a 1-5 scale with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. I then evaluated myself on a variety of concepts, which included attendance, teamwork, initiative, productivity, etc. These numbers were tallied and a final score was derived.

Next, I wrote a detailed paragraph or two about several of the previously listed qualities that appeared on the evaluation. I always wrote positive comments on my evaluations.

Finally, I had a separate area to detail my personal accomplishments, if I hadn’t already incorporated them into previous paragraphs. There was also a portion of my evaluation where I could list my goals for the upcoming year.

While this was happening, my boss was also writing an evaluation about me. My boss scored and tallied me on a variety of topics. My boss wrote paragraphs about how I performed my job and what I accomplished. My boss wrote goals about what they wanted me to achieve.

What happened next was a meeting between the two individuals. My boss and I would meet and compare evaluations. A dialogue ensues. And after some compromising a final evaluation was decided upon.


Dealing With Self-Evaluations

I’ve noticed several things about self-evaluations.

I always found that it was difficult to write a self-evaluation. Whenever I wrote a self-evaluation— I liked to tell stories. I liked to give examples of how I was a great team player. Or how I provided initiative. Or how I increased my productivity.

Frankly, it was difficult to remember all the stories at evaluation time at the end of the year. Thus, what I did was, as things were happening throughout the year, I wrote them down. Then, I had all my stories from the past year. It made writing a self-evaluation much easier.

I also noticed that when it came to self-evaluations, sometimes staff members would lowball themselves. They were too reluctant to give themselves all high scores. They didn’t want to come off as egotistical. They felt like they were boasting or not really deserving the high scores.

I always evaluated myself by scoring the highest score possible. In other words, on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest, I rated myself with all 5s. I did this for various reasons.

First, I felt that I was deserving of that high score. I had always worked hard in my position. I was extremely loyal to all the jobs where I had ever worked. I always gave 150% and did a great job. If I didn’t think I deserved a high score for the work I did, why should I have expected someone else to feel that way?

I also scored myself high scores for another reason. When it came to my boss and my self-evaluation, I usually found that my boss scored me lower than I thought he should have. Maybe my boss scored me lower so that it would work out when we eventually compromised. If I scored high and my boss scored low then we’d meet somewhere in the middle.

But most of the time, the resulting compromised evaluation was closer to my boss’s viewpoint instead of what I wrote. Thus, I found it necessary to always score myself with high scores in a self-evaluation.

There was one occasion when I found that my self-evaluation was crucial. It was when one of my bosses had no clue as to what was happening. I have had many good bosses. But in this case, I encountered a boss that had no idea what was happening in the pharmacy.

My original boss resigned about two weeks before my self-evaluation was due. I was assigned a new boss. She was the vice-president of nursing. She was also over the pharmacy department. I thought that she should have had some concept as to what was happening in the pharmacy department. After all, the pharmacy supplies the medication that the nurses give to the patients. Having completed my self-evaluation, I met with the vice-president (my new boss) to complete the evaluation process.

I knew I was in trouble when the vice-president asked, “So what exactly do you do?” I thought a vice-president should have some concept as to what is happening in one of their departments! Fortunately, I had my self-evaluation to enlighten her.


Determining One’s Goals

Many times, I felt that the goals listed on an evaluation were unrealistic. They were almost like New Year’s resolutions. Most people looked at them for the first month or two. They attempted to do what could easily be done. And then they forgot about them. That is, until a month or two prior to the next evaluation— that way they could say that they were making some progress in achieving their goals.

The reason I felt this way was how my goals were presented. I had no choice in what my goals should have been. There was no discussion. No compromise (I could have suggested some of my goals and my boss could have suggested some of my goals). Instead, my goals were usually thrust upon me.

Furthermore, even when I did have some sort of say in the matter, my goals were often too broad and often unachievable. For example, implement a new medication error system throughout the hospital. Was this a wonderful goal for a pharmacy manager to have? Yes. Unattainable? Definitely!

I thought a medication error system would be a wonderful thing for my hospital to have. However, there was no money in the budget. The hospital had put a hold on capital expenditures. Nursing and physicians didn’t like serving on committees run by the pharmacy department. And my manpower was going to be impacted— since I was scheduled to lose two full-time employees.

Only twice in my career have I ever been pleased with the goal process. And both times, I was the one who initiated it.

In one case, I selected my own goals. They were realistic. They were attainable. I chose goals which would benefit the pharmacy department. Goals that I could do with limited resources and no additional manpower. I also made sure that they were measurable. So I could show improvement after my goals were implemented.

Since I didn’t want to lose my focus, I made a copy of my goals. I posted them on the door of my office. This way I saw them all the time. Thus, I wouldn’t forget about them in a month or two.

I also told my staff about my goals. And they were also able to see them posted on my door. I asked my staff to hold me accountable. They did. My staff repeatedly asked me how far along I was in completing my goals.

My second instance involved goals for my staff. Before proceeding with their evaluation, I asked each staff member to come up with one goal for the following year. I asked each staff member what they would like to achieve in the upcoming year. Would they like to learn a new task related to their job? Would they like to join a hospital committee? Would they like to learn something outside of their job description (ie. how to devise a budget, make a schedule, or prepare an antibiotic usage report)? Would they like to take a medically related course outside of the hospital?

My pharmacy staff appreciated the opportunity that they had to select and accomplish their goals.

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