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The end of the fiscal year is a time to clear the decks and prepare for a fresh start. Everyone knows about closing out the budgetary year – the clue's in the name – but, there are other tasks, too. For example, performance reviews. Most everyone loathes them – both giving and receiving - yet they are a necessary evil. What's especially difficult is how to administer them with fairness and efficiency. The solution – standard form – is not new. In fact, here are a couple of performance review forms with rating scales and numeric values I found in the Archives. Although the forms are simple and direct, these would never be allowed today. Take a look and see:

Performance appraisal form, 1933. Accession 05-123: Smithsonian Institution, Personnel Records, 1892

The first example is my favorite. It is one page (there is room to write in detailed comments on the back) and can be used for any worker from laborer to upper management. It has a graphic scale, along which are terms to guide the rater allowing them to complete the task quickly and efficiency. The rating scale works from left to right – take a close look at the terms sprinkled along each line. That's right: slovenly, lazy and repellent.

Performance appraisal form, 1935. Accession 05-123: Smithsonian Institution, Personnel Records, 1892

Just two years later the form was still one page, but it is much less "nuanced" than its predecessor and not nearly so descriptive. So if you happen to be giving or receiving a performance review soon, I hope that you enjoyed this historic look back at the time-honored ritual of performance reviews.

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