Team Management

Employee Evaluation Checklist - Your Ultimate Guide to Avoid the Dark Side at the Time of Assessments

March 1, 2023

It’s time for the big confrontation—you guessed it right—you have to conduct work performance reviews. Decisions have to be made about appraisals and promotions to address weak employee performance areas. 

Performance evaluations are an integral part of any organization as it determines the overall satisfaction level of both employers and employees alike. Do this wrong, and you will suffer a terrible cost – deal with employee turnover or have a devastating impact on business operations. 

In order to set a realistic baseline for continuous organizational improvement, you have to nail the art of employee’s performance assessment. It is important to have an employee evaluation checklist to begin with, but you also need to make sure you’re not making any mistakes while filling out the checklist with feedback.

7 Cardinal Sins of Employee Performance Review

You may have the best intentions at heart when you start doing an employee’s performance evaluation, but the truth is that most review processes will end up yielding disappointing results. . You do not want to sweep the problems under the rug, nor do you want hardworking employees to feel unappreciated or dissatisfied with the company.  

So how do you ensure that the process ends pleasantly without rendering feelings of resentment? 

It’s simple: you avoid the following mistakes while setting the performance review criteria:

1.  Number of Hours Worked

Some managers directly equate the number of hours worked to the amount of work done. The number of hours on its own is not a good identifier for classifying top performers. 

Tethering work to time and space is really a thing of the past. Sure, if you were living in the age of the Industrial Revolution, where physical labor and duration was equally important, counting hours to measure productivity made sense. However, translating the same historical measures to the modern era by standardizing 8 hours a day does not reflect productivity levels in this modern post-pandemic age. 

As long as employees are able to complete their tasks within a predefined time frame, it shouldn't really matter if it took 8 hours to do so or just 4 hours. Time element should always be considered in conjunction with task completion and quality of work delivered. Measuring productivity by the number of hours worked can discourage employees from utilizing their time efficiently. 

2.  Employee Comparison

“Look at other team members, they managed to call more potential customers than you did! You should do the same.” Ouch. That did not sound fair. The gist of the matter is that employees do not enjoy being compared with one another. 

According to Harvard Business Review, people consider it unjust when the performance reviews for employees consist of social comparisons rather than temporal assessments. 

When the reference point for evaluations is based on the employees’ own performance and how far they have come in terms of their own accomplishments, they feel motivated to attain better results next time and put in more effort.

3.  Recency Error

Sometimes companies take so long to conduct performance reviews that they eventually end up taking the easy route to shorten employee assessment times. That is, they just look at the most recent performance of an employee and base the entire judgment on that. 

It’s important to consider previous data, too.

For example, check if the employee:

  • exceeded expectations
  • demonstrated mediocre performance, or
  • toppled over the standards entirely

The review should be conducted over past performances as well as the current ones to make sure that you know the trend of the deliverables. 

Ditching the annual review process and moving towards a quarterly or biannual review process can help you with more accurate employee assessments. This way, you can mentor, coach, and appreciate the employee accordingly.

4.  Unconscious Employee Bias  

Unconscious biases towards employees set inaccurate performance review criteria. Don’t let your judgment be clouded by your own perception of a particular employee. 

The halo effect is when you continuously feel so positive about a certain employee that you fail to see areas of improvement to highlight. Conversely, the horn effect is when you see another employee continuously in a negative light – everything the employee says or does is wrong.

Another type of bias in the workplace is similarity error. It happens when the judgment is based upon how similar an employee is to the manager. To prevent skewing the employee review process, you should not get influenced by how you relate to a particular employee at a personal level. It is essential to not conduct a review based on your preconceived notions about the employees.

5.  Distribution Errors

The distribution error is the most common type of Rater Error that most managers are a culprit of committing. Rather than following through an employee performance checklist, supervisors sometimes assess employees on how generous their personality is. There are three types of distribution errors that you should avoid:


The manager aggregates everyone’s performance towards the middle. So, naturally, the top performers will feel bad for working hard just to be labeled as “satisfactory” or “meets expectations”.


The sunflower effect –  a manager is too big a heart to fail anyone – everyone is above average.


The manager is too harsh. Nobody can ever exceed expectations. So, almost all the employees get below-average ratings.

6.  Level of Interaction  

Something just doesn’t feel right when you’re supposed to critically analyze a situation but you aren't the person to do that. The person conducting the review should be the one who has had the most interaction with the employee. 

If you are not aware of the day-to-day activities of the employee, you cannot pinpoint specific areas and situations that were outstanding or needed more attention to detail. To evaluate an employee effectively, you should have a close level of interaction rather than passing judgments from afar. 

7.  Attribution Error

Attribution error occurs when the assessor makes an assumption about the employee's behavior at the workplace. 

For example, if an employee is generally low on energy, the manager might think that their performance is not up to the mark. Similarly, if an employee cross-questions the supervisor for an assigned task, the manager might assume that the employee has a negative attitude at work.

Employee Review Checklist

Now that we have cleared out the cardinal sins that managers may be susceptible to committing when performing employee evaluations, let’s get down to the performance evaluation checklist. These are the things that you must be vigilant about.

1.  Conduct Periodic Reviews

The process of evaluating an employee against set standards or expectations should be an ongoing process rather than a once-a-year type of activity. Feedback should be given promptly as compared to preserving judgment for the whole year. 

Mark Twain wisely said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Therefore, employees need to know improvement areas in a timely fashion. The reviews can also be done after the completion of projects. Consistent feedback is the key to unlocking the potential of the employees. 

2.  Performance Review Criteria

You need to set some standards for employee performance evaluations to make sure that all employees are competing in the same field. It’s important to assess employees’ understanding of their role, responsibilities, and the company’s goals. An employee who possesses strong job knowledge is more likely to perform well and produce quality work.

Set SMART goals for employees – i.e., the objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Here are some factors to consider for the review criteria:

Achievements and Failures

To give well-rounded feedback, you should have a thorough knowledge of the employee’s achievements or shortcomings.

Quality Versus Quantity of Work

Quality of work should never be compromised. Try to take a deep dive into the quality and quantity of an employee’s work and analyze if the latter is negatively impacting the former.

Assess on Problem Solving Skills

An individual’s problem solving skills should never be underestimated. Managersshould examine the critical thinking capability of employees during their performance assessment.


Taking initiative is employees’ testament to their hardworking behavior. Assessing these initiatives require the manager to see if employees are able to identify opportunities, take necessary risks, and ultimately drive value. 

Adaptability and Dependability

Can the employee adapt to change, take on new roles, and cope up with challenges? Is the employee dependable and available to do the tasks in time? Adaptable employees  are resilient and handle workplace challenges effectively. They bring outside the box solutions to toughest problems and are always ready to seize the day. 

3.  Feedback Meeting

When you are ready to give feedback to the employee, make sure you have justifications for every point in the employee evaluation checklist. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Avoid starting with a negative feedback to set a positive environment 
  •  Discuss significant accomplishments first and gently steer towards the negative feedback
  •  Discuss strengths and shortcomings
  •  Walk-through the previous plan for goal completion
  •  Determine future targets and how they can be met
  •  Present the employee with opportunities for career path development
  •  Be ready to answer any concerns raised by the employee 

4.  Follow-up with Employees

Performance reviews for employees should be done in a manner that employees feel motivated to keep doing their tasks efficiently. In remote and hybrid work cultures, follow-ups are a crucial part of employee evaluation. 

It’s essential that you keep the feedback loop active even after the performance review meeting. Routine follow-ups optimize career growth and keep employees productive. Further Reading: The Undeniable Productivity Perks of Letting Employees Work Remotely

Where Do Employers Go Wrong in Performance Reviews?

A major downside to employee performance assessments is that managers often lack the right knowledge and data to pinpoint areas of improvement. 

Data is really the driving force behind work performance reviews. Most managers don’t have insights into employees’ day-to-day activities, performance, employee participation, and engagement. 

So how do you correctly analyze data against the employee evaluation checklist? 

This is where timegram steps up as a game-changer in productivity management and performance reviews. The tool provides you with accurate performance-based insights to keep you from relying on assumptions and bias during appraisals.

Manage Productivity and Take Data-Driven Decisions with timegram 

timegram ensures that managers make data-driven decisions during the employee review process based on insights from individual and team performances. Such insights allow you to create detail-oriented performance reports for assessment. 

Here’s how timegram does it:

Task-based time tracking 

Total hours spent at work is certainly not a good indicator of an employee’s work assessment. timegram helps in determining the amount of time an employee invests in doing a particular task.

Timesaving and effortless reports

It is extremely easy to generate reports through timegram. You can get productivity sheets with just a few clicks. Take a deep dive into the projects and employee capacity through each timegram-generated report.

Comprehensive insights into individual and team performance

You get a bird’s eye view as well as a drilled-down view of the projects, tasks, and timelines. timegram helps you to watch out for trends and patterns to analyze a problem in meeting deadlines before it is too late and make sure that employees remain dedicated to task completion.

If you want to conduct unbiased, data-backed performance reviews for employees, timegram’s got you covered. Acknowledge, recognize, and appreciate each employee’s efforts and keep them motivated.


1) How to evaluate employees' performance?

Three of the most common ways of employee performance evaluation are:

  • Self-evaluation – let the employees critically analyze their own performance.
  • Peer-based evaluations or 360-degree feedback – includes reviews from direct and non-direct supervisors and peers alike.
  • Ratings scale – most commonly used performance review method. It may comprise employer-based performance review criteria that may consist of competencies or task completions against which the employees are evaluated. Rating may be numerical or categorical. Remember that it is important to have justifications for the ratings you give to an employee on any parameter in the employee evaluation checklist.

2) What should you include in the employee evaluation checklist?

Employee evaluation checklists  can be long. Ideally, they must include:

  • How well the employees collaborated with other team members on projects
  • Their quality of work
  • The kind of issues they resolved, 
  • How often they met their weekly working capacity

3) What are the steps in an employee performance review?

Essentially there are four stages to an employee performance review: 

  1. Planning for goals
  2. Measuring performance
  3. Analyzing the results
  4. Appreciating and rewarding the accomplishments 
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Wajiha Khan

About the author

Wajiha Khan loves collecting books, stargazing, traveling, and spinning stories for young readers. She’s probably jotting down her next poem or story as you read this bio!

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