In all major management frameworks, a performance review rating of 5 out of 10 or lower is considered poor. 6–8 is the average, while 8–10 suggests overdelivery compared with job expectations. It’s important that self-ratings are aligned with the feedback you’ve gotten from your manager throughout the year. Studies have shown that employees rate themselves higher than their managers about 50% of the time, and that women are subject to negative bias in male-dominated fields.
Ratings are typically collected for various job areas (timeliness, customer service, leadership) and aggregated to produce your overall rating.
This allows you to be more honest in each category, and still produce a fair score.
To give some examples:
|Performance area||0-5 out of 10 rating||6-8 out of 10 rating||8-10 out of 10 rating|
|Timeliness||Late to work one or more times per week.||Late to work 1-2 times per month, occasionally arrives early.||Always arrives 15 minutes early to prepare for shift.|
|Customer service||Receives occasional customer complaints.||Receives occasional 5-star customer reviews.||Receives 5-star customer reviews at least once per week.|
|Leadership||Rarely offers to manage projects.||Occasionally offers to manage projects.||Frequently volunteers to manage projects.|
Key point: align your rating with your manager
Before we dive into performance review ratings and how you should rate yourself out of 10, let’s look at employee vs. manager ratings.
It’s important to note that employees typically rate themselves higher on their performance reviews than their managers. One study found that managers rated employees lower than they rated themselves 50 percent of the time.1
Why? An employee’s merit increase is usually at stake during a performance review. If you want to receive the highest merit increase, you’re going to do your best to show your value to the organization, which leads to inflated self-scoring.
It’s also important to note that there can be bias in the performance review process, particularly in male-dominated fields scoring female employees.
Overall, being honest about your performance and knowing when to advocate for yourself is key in the performance review process.
Should I be confident or humble about my out of 10 ratings?
The short answer is it depends. You really need to take ample time to reflect on your performance and how you are living out the company’s mission, vision, and values each day before rating yourself on your performance review. When you are reflecting, use as much data as you can to guide your scoring. It will help keep you grounded in the facts, instead of just what you “feel” you deserve.
Confidence is great to have when it is warranted. If you find yourself often stepping up to lead your team, training new employees, or being the go-to person for a specific type of project, confidence is justified. But remember, you need to be able to back up your confidence with data. Try using these prompts to guide your rating.
How many times in the last 6 months have I gotten positive feedback about [specific task]?
How many times did I take the initiative and lead team projects this year? Have I trained new employees or helped my co-workers with [specific task]? How often did I do that in the last 6 months?
Humility is just as important as confidence. If you know that you are struggling with a specific work task or soft skill i.e. communication, then let your rating reflect that. It can be difficult to think about our weaknesses, but facing our shortcomings will only help us to grow in the future. You can use prompts like these to guide your ratings.
Is there a specific task I’ve gotten constructive criticism for in the last 6 months? How often was I given negative feedback on this particular task?
In the last year, have I had to redo a task or project because it was done incorrectly? How many times did I have to redo my work?
Is there any area of my job where I struggle and often ask for help? How often do I need to enlist the help of others for this task?
Real-world example: how to determine self-rating score
Let’s use Terrance as an example. Terrance is a web developer at a major tech company. He is well-liked by his peers and often takes the lead on new team initiatives. His co-workers are always happy to follow his lead to get the job done correctly and meet the deadlines. Terrance is also the unofficial go-to person for training the newcomers. His natural teaching ability helps the new employees and interns hit the ground running.
However, Terrance is often late to work and his manager gives him constructive feedback on his lack of timeliness. Sometimes, Terrance also needs a little extra guidance and practice with data integration.
|When should you be confident?||When should you be humble?|
|You frequently teach others how to do a specific task.||You often ask for help or guidance when completing a certain task or job duty.|
|You often lead group initiatives and others follow.||You have had to redo completed work because you did it incorrectly the first time.|
|Your manager consistently gives positive feedback about a particular task or job duty you complete.||You get frequent constructive feedback on an aspect of your job, such as tardiness.|
Overall Terrance is your average employee and will likely have a balanced score on his performance review. He excels in some areas, but in others, he has room for improvement.
He will probably have a mixture of ratings like 3/10, 5/10, 7/10, and maybe even a 10/10. Most of us will fall in line with Terrance. No employee is perfect and it is crucial to know your strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness is foundational to professional growth.
Is a rating of 7 (or above) out of 10 too high?
A rating of 7 out of 10 or even higher isn’t necessarily too much. However, before you give yourself a high score, you need to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions like, “Do I really deserve this score, or am I trying to show my value to the company so that I get the merit increase I want?”
You may find yourself wanting that merit increase and inflating your score. Always go back to the data. If you have data that can prove your claim, then give yourself the 7 out of 10. If you don’t have any facts, but you feel you deserve the 7 out of 10, it’s time to reflect. What does the data tell you? Let that guide your scoring.
When can I justify giving myself a score of 10 out of 10?
It’s not very often that a score of 10 out of 10 is warranted, but it’s not unheard of. You will need to use the same guiding principles of self-reflection with facts and specific data examples to determine if the perfect score is justified. For example, Mario is always on time for work and rarely calls out. He consistently adheres to his scheduled work hours. He also completes work that is free from errors. Mario should give himself a rating of 10 out of 10 in these specific areas on his performance appraisal.
If you’ve determined that you deserve a 10 out of 10 rating, get to work on compiling all the data to support your claim. It’s difficult to argue with numbers, so be very specific. If you can’t find any data to support your claim, then it’s time to re-evaluate your score. However, if you have very specific data i.e. I trained 12 new employees on data integration in the last 4 months, then by all means give yourself the 10 out of 10. Remember, it can be difficult to get a perfect score and managers score their employees lower half the time. Be ready to advocate for yourself. Here’s a sample performance review rubric from the Society of Human Resources Management. If you consistently come to work on time and adhere to your scheduled working hours, then you should absolutely give yourself the perfect score.
What should I rate myself out of 5?
You may be noticing a pattern of “it depends” answers when you ask what you should rate yourself. As frustrating as that may be, it really does depend. It depends on how well you are completing tasks, working with your team, etc. No employee is perfect.
Rating yourself out of 5 total, instead of out of 10 total, can feel a little different. However, the main goal remains the same across the board, which is balance. If you’re rating yourself out of 10, you’ll likely have an average of 5 out of 10. You may even have some below-average scores like 3 out of 10. Or, if you’re performing well, you can even score above average like a 7 out of 10.
The same holds true for rating yourself out of 5. You will likely have some average scores of 3 out of 5. You may even have some above-average scoring of 4 or 5 out of 5. And, as much as it bothers you, you may get a few 2 out of 5 scores. Balance is key here. You have your strengths and your weaknesses. As long as your scores even out, and overall you are meeting expectations and completing your job duties, average is a good score.
Do scale and star rating systems work?
Rating systems can work, but it’s important to recognize there can be biases. A 2019 study conducted by Lauren A. Rivera and András Tilcsik concluded that rating systems have gender biases at play, especially in male-dominated fields. They found a “reluctance of raters in male-dominated fields to evaluate women as performing at the highest levels of excellence.” Men in these fields got the highest score about 30 percent of the time, while women got the highest possible rating less than 20 percent of the time. Interestingly enough, in female-dominated fields, there “did not appear to be major gender differences in the shape of the distribution (of scores).”2
Be mindful of biases in the workplace and within rating systems. If you feel you’ve been rated unfairly, present evidence that supports your claim. The data doesn’t lie and it’s difficult for people to argue with the numbers.
More on Performance Reviews Rating Systems
Several research studies have been conducted on whether or not performance reviews are beneficial to employees and organizations. Although there is criticism of how performance reviews are used, a 2018 study by Peter Cappelli and Martin J. Canyon found them to be positively related to employment outcomes like merit increases, promotions, demotions, and dismissals. The study also noted that employees’ performances changed over time. They were not as consistent as what was originally thought.3
This information provides insight to both companies and employees. The data collected from these annual reviews can help inform decisions not just on merit increases and promotions. They can also be used to determine future training, how employee weaknesses can be mitigated, and guide professional development plans.
Trailblazers, like Microsoft4, are changing the way they do their performance reviews. They have shifted from ranking employees to focusing more on employee growth. Before, managers had to rank a certain percentage of employees as top performers, average performers, or poor performers. This created an immense amount of competition between the employees and became disruptive to the workplace. Now, there is no more ranking, and the main focus is on growth, impact, and collaboration. Managers also have the freedom to allocate merit increases as they see fit based on their employees’ individual contributions to the company.
The trend to move away from performance reviews has continued to grow. More and more companies are realizing the impacts performance reviews have on employees. While they do give some valuable information, the annual review is often a high-pressure situation riddled with nerves. Now, organizations are shifting to a more frequent model. Investis Digital has moved to half-hour check-ins every 2 to 4 weeks. The focus is on feedback for both the employee and the manager and the company as a whole.
Before each meeting, employees and managers determine topics to discuss. These typically include, what is going well, what is not working, and potential solutions to the problems. This model allows for a more collaborative work environment for both employees and managers. Instead of employees being on the chopping block, they are seen as valuable contributors to the company.
Even if your company still conducts performance reviews, you can still use some of these strategies. If you feel like you aren’t getting enough feedback, speak up. If you feel there is a problem or inefficiency in your job duties, bring solutions to your manager and work together to get the issue resolved. If you feel you need more training or aren’t understanding a concept, ask if any resources are available for your professional development. These strategies show your manager that you are engaged and invested in your professional growth within the company. Utilizing these tactics may even help boost your next performance review score.
Some final takeaways:
- Being honest with yourself regarding your performance is key.
- Know about biases in the workplace and know when and how to advocate for yourself, using facts to back up your claims.
- Giving yourself a rating of 10 out of 10 is acceptable, if you can prove you deserve a perfect score with factual information (i.e. numbers).
- Be humble and realistic about your areas of improvement.
- The performance review should be a time to celebrate your accomplishments and develop a plan to improve your areas of growth; not a time to be down on yourself or seek conflict with management.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a performance review really measuring?
In basic terms, a performance review measures how employees are performing their specific job duties. However, it is also used to determine how employees fit into the company culture and how they are adhering to the organization's mission, vision, and values. They are often used to measure soft skills like leadership, communication, and collaboration.