Marcus Buckingham

when, as part of your performance appraisal, we ask your boss to rate you on the organization’s required competencies, we do it because of our belief that these ratings reliably reveal how well you are actually doing on these competencies. The competency gaps your boss identifies then become the basis for your Individual Development Plan for next year. The same applies to the widespread use of 360 degree surveys. We use these surveys because we believe that other people’s ratings of you will reveal something real about you, something that can be reliably identified, and then improved.

Unfortunately, we are mistaken. The research record reveals that neither you nor any of your peers are reliable raters of anyone. And as a result, virtually all of our people data is fatally flawed.

Over the last fifteen years a significant body of research has demonstrated that each of us is a disturbingly unreliable rater of other people’s performance. The effect that ruins our ability to rate others has a name: the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect, which tells us that my rating of you on a quality such as “potential” is driven not by who you are, but instead by my own idiosyncrasies—how I define “potential,” how much of it I think I have, how tough a rater I usually am. This effect is resilient — no amount of training seems able to lessen it. And it is large — on average, 61% of my rating of you is a reflection of me.

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