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Ick! I Hate Evaluations

Author: Sue Pivetta

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2011-06-01
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How annoying can the evaluation process be? 

Think back to years of getting and giving evaluations.  Are your memories fuzzy recollections of frustration, confusion, apathy, joy or resentment? Or do you recall them as an effective method of valued communications between you and an expert on how well you are keeping the promise of your work and adding to the overall agency goals of excellence?

Generally with most humans, high praise gives us much-needed warm fuzzies.  We respond to bland evaluations with apathy or distress for time wasted.  "I work hard to do good work and this is what I get?"  A mention of any fault and we counter with they don't know us, don't appreciate us, spend way too much time finding fault. How can evaluations be a truly valuable asset to your agency?


A blind man will not thank you for a looking glass.

English Proverb (18th century).


Getting evaluations is not nearly as icky as giving them.  Why are evaluations such a pain for the evaluator also? Often there is no sanctioned method to evaluating. If you could leap tall buildings Supervisor A gave you meets expectations. Supervisor B was thrilled and rated you exceed expectations if you considered leaping a small garage. And rarely are supervisors given the TIME needed to put the evaluations together or TIME to adequately communicate with their people for the evaluation.  And often there is NO time given to the proper data that could result from the entire evaluation.  After all evaluations tell the agency that what is supposed to happen is happening, or not.  What time and process is provided for an evaluation of the evaluation results agency wide, by shift, tenure or other categories?

In evaluations that are not highly regarded, each person takes their fifteen minutes of apathy or discomfort and then processes their own internal evaluation.  We all like to believe we are doing not only well but above average.  It's human nature!  The only effective evaluation for most of us is delivered with evidence from someone we consider an expert who is measuring defined criteria. Often the results of a loosey-goosey evaluation system are disregard, apathy or time wasted. The evaluation process just seems like a necessary evil instead of a valuable and needed process that is greatly appreciated.


Define The Current Reality

The first step is to gather information, processes, correspondence and all history regarding the present evaluation system.  Also helpful is an agency wide survey requesting feedback on the current evaluation process. 

Is the evaluation system working for the supervisors or trainers?  Do they have enough time, information, and guidance on how to do evaluations?  What is the thought of the Telecommunicators regarding their evaluations?  Do they feel evaluation forms or processes are valid and useful as far as quality control, training, motivation, learning, planning?  What would they change, do they have suggestions?  Do they feel the evaluation process values them as vital members of the agency who have something to say?


Value The Evaluations With Time

The experienced ear just knows what is good work on a call, what is a good dispatch, what is poor work - but that's not enough!  The process of evaluating the WORK means listening to a random selection of tapes over a reasonable amount of time.  This sampling of calls could be provided with the evaluation as substantiation or demonstration of the skill, knowledge or attitude ratings.  Also an evaluation session where the supervisor and the Telecommunicator listen to calls, exemplary or needs improvement, is very powerful.  Now you have a crystal-clear, unsentimental, potent and indisputable evaluation process. 


What we value we spend time on. 

Supervisors and trainers need time to do the work-of-evaluating.  The worker in Emergency Communications can hide errors; it's not like making a widget.  An evaluator looks at the widget, tests the widget - if it's a good widget they did a good job, especially if they made many widgets in record time.  Not so tangible here.  The worker makes decisions independent of any evaluation - unless a call is pulled for some reason.  The supervisor must look at the widget and be able to provide a perfect widget checklist from which to evaluate the work. Next the worker must also look the widget with clear and undeniable truths about the quality of the work expected and the quality of this work as delivered. This takes time. 

Agencies are always looking for ways to increase motivation and moral.  What better way than to spend time with your employees to listen to them. Typical evaluations may say the evaluator talks, the person being evaluated listens - sign here and don't let the door hit you on your way out. A productive evaluation allows time for the employee to share, vent, question, advise, offer and feel heard. Now, to feel heard, a person must not feel the evaluator is defensive and must feel the evaluator can be trusted with very important (to them) private or emotional information. Give evaluators permission to let down, let go, allow and relax when listening.

So then the investment is in time. Time to review the current way of being, time to redesign an more effective process, time to get all evaluators on the same page, time to gather listen to the work and review the files, time to spend time with your workers, and time to evaluate the results of the evaluations for the direction of the agency. You will never FIND time, time just is.  You must USE time for what is most valued. Use your time to value your people, value the promise of 9-1-1.

Sue Pivetta is president of Professional Pride, Inc.   She has worked in emergency communications since 1989 as a college instructor, consultant, workshop leader and author.   She teaches adult learning through her book and workshop The Exceptional Trainer.  Contact Sue through her website



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