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How to Evaluate Your Manager’s Performance (Without Guesswork)


A surprise resignation here; a rumor of resentment there… these are indications that there are problems within your management team.

If this is happening, the time to take action is now.

Great managers build trust, inspire individuals, and motivate teams. Bad managers breed resentment and make people want to quit.

Problem is, you may not realize what’s happening until smaller managerial issues have spiraled into much bigger problems.

What if I told you there’s a way to evaluate your managers’ performance and identify the tools they need to be successful—without having to guess at what’s going on?

Why Manager Evaluations by Staff Are So Important

Fact is, being a great manager isn’t something that comes naturally. The role is often bestowed upon individuals who have showcased exceptional engagement at a job well done—but may or may not be skilled at inspiring others to do the same.

Even revered management consultant Peter Drucker has been cited in academia as proclaiming that “the greatest challenge to U.S. business… may well be the development of its management people.”

Of course, Drucker also famously noted that you can’t improve what you can’t measure. And that’s where evaluations come in.

Manager evaluations provide the foundation you need to support supervisors so they can become superstar leaders and help create a strong culture of engagement.

But simply asking employees for feedback isn’t enough. A poor evaluation process can lead to bogus answers and keep the rumor mill going. Only open and honest feedback will lead to meaningful discussions and decisions.

For example, consider what happened at Steel Encounters. It wasn’t until employees were encouraged to provide confidential manager evaluations that it became evident that trust and feedback—key drivers of employee engagement—were frighteningly low within the company’s northwest division, where workers are frequently in the field and often out of sight.

Armed with this information, executives took action. Just one quarter later, the division’s engagement scores (a strong indicator of what’s really happening within an organization) had increased by a remarkable 10 points.

So… how did they do it?

Performance Evaluation Criteria for Managers: The Essentials

Based on 15Five’s experiences with thousands of employees across numerous industries and organizations, three core principles will ensure that your manager evaluations by staff are productive.

#1: Ensure Confidentiality

You can’t really evaluate your managers’ performance unless you have open and honest feedback. And you won’t get candid feedback unless you ensure confidentiality.

Employees will only be authentic in their answers if there’s no fear of negative consequences to their work status or career. (This is what’s known as the core psychological condition of safety.)

It’s not enough to say that answers are kept confidential. Your employees need proof. If you don’t yet have a proven track record from previous manager evaluations, using a survey solution designed to ensure confidentiality can accomplish this for you.

#2: Seek Clarity

In instances when staff evaluations of a manager bring a specific issue or problem area to light, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Something as simple as a one-question follow up poll may be all you need to find out what’s going wrong.

For example, when one 15five customer discovered employees felt they weren’t getting adequate training, executives sent out a one-question SmartPulse™ survey to ask what types of training opportunities they hoped to see.

This same approach can be used to understand what employees need from management to feel supported and be successful.

#3: Take Action

Manager evaluations by staff will help you identify what’s unhealthy. It’s up to you to remedy it. Taking action on the data you collect will not only help managers succeed, but also reinforce to employees that leadership is listening.

Back at Steel Encounters, executives responded to low engagement scores in its northwest division by putting new support mechanisms in place right away. Management was provided with professional coaching and invited to attend a monthly book club to discuss the principles of Agile Engagement. Meanwhile, employees participated in one-hour, one-on-one sessions with leadership where suggestions were actively encouraged.

The result? President Tom Jackson put it this way:

“Sitting down and having a face-to-face with each employee in the department just skyrocketed their scores. They felt like the valve had been opened so they could give feedback up to management.”

Sample Manager Evaluation Questions

Remember: The goal of asking staff to evaluate managers is to identify concrete ways you can help your managers and their teams succeed. The companies we work with have found that managers are frequently relieved to have candid feedback they can use to make adjustments and adopt newer, better approaches.

The right evaluation questions will help clue you in to any issues and provide solid takeaways you can use. Best way to do that? Measure engagement across your entire organization, and then view the results by individual departments, teams, and locations.

For example, consider the following Likert scale-style questions:

  • I am inspired to do my best work
  • I’m excited about how my work matters to our team
  • Time goes by very quickly when I am at work

If employees score high on these statements in one department but not another, that’s a clear indication that it’s time to take a deeper look at what’s going on within the division.

Bottom line: Evaluating your managers’ performance can have a big impact on the overall engagement of your employees and success of your company. Armed with the right insights, it becomes exponentially easier to empower managers to truly inspire teams.

How to measure manager effectiveness all in one place

The factors that contribute to manager efficiency and effectiveness are numerous and complex. An evaluation process that includes the above metrics can help you get started—and it helps tremendously when you have a holistic performance management platform that captures them for you.

Measuring manager effectiveness at scale requires an ability to continuously pull in real-time data, make sense of it, and come up with the right next steps to move the needle. That’s why 15Five developed the Manager Effectiveness Indicator (MEI).

The MEI uses data from 15Five to examine the skills, behaviors, and outcomes of a manager and their team. You can easily identify great managers in your organization and see which ones need more support—and in what areas—so you can take action. It offers a holistic view of how effective your managers are, how they’re impacting bottom-line metrics, and what you can do to help them improve. 

Learn more about the Manager Effectiveness Indicator >