For years I worked in human resources, and one of my biggest challenges was getting managers to complete their employees’ performance reviews in a timely and effective manner. While emphasizing the positives, managers had to include “Here's what you could do better.” Hard message to deliver when almost everybody thinks they’re giving their all and wants the bigger raise tied to the performance rating.
Of course, performance ratings should be tied to objective, measurable goals. One time I joined a company that used a very subjective essay style of performance appraisals. In an appraisal for a dentist, I read one sentence summing up her skills and three sentences about the wonderful kuchen she baked for the department. Geez Louise. I had to laugh, but we changed the company’s rating methodology pretty darn quick.
Training for performance reviews always included the instructions that any employee who was meeting expectations should be rated a “3.” In fact, most ratings should be a “3.” Remember the bell curve in statistics? Any manager who rated their employees all fives or even all fours was not doing their job—and, yeah, I was the one who got to tell them that.
But now I’m an author, and I’m looking at all my ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s a little harder to be happy with a “3” even though I should be. Ratings affect sales. Sales might be higher if everyone rated my books “5” or even “4.” Now I prefer the fives, appreciate the fours, welcome the threes, and tolerate a couple twos.
I’m happy people are taking the time to rate my book. It creates buzz, or at least the beginnings of the “b” sound. Ratings mean I have readers. Readers are good. Readers who publish ratings are even better. Readers who publish reviews are the most interesting. Of course, they’re a little like the kuchen—very subjective. But then writing is subjective: to tastes, to trends, to popularity, etc.
So I’m going with the old adage: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Ratings and reviews are publicity. Therefore, I love them, regardless.
And I’m going to love my bell curve, too.