Week 14: Why do people fear evaluation?

We’re not talking about people who resist or don’t see the point of evaluation. This week we are talking about people who are genuinely fearful of evaluation. These people exist and they might be your clients. If we want people to use evaluation, we have to meet them where they’re at, and they might be in Terrified of Evaluation Land.

How do people end up scared of evaluation? What can you, as an evaluator, do to relieve some anxiety? Some possibilities:

  • They worked with an evaluator in the past and had an awful experience. Maybe they received negative feedback about their program. Maybe they felt an evaluation was a waste of resources. Maybe the evaluator was hard to communicate with. Whatever the reason, it can be helpful to ask a client about their previous evaluation experiences, at which time you will probably be able to pick up on their feelings toward evaluation. Also, pay attention if you are put through an interview process. You may be able to learn about their past experiences with an evaluator, either throughout the interview or by asking them directly.
  • They feel like they’re being graded. Evaluation is a scary word. Evaluation determines value. No one wants to be told they or the program they devote their life to is not valuable. I don’t think anyone is surprised that people are not standing in line to be evaluated. Evaluators need to keep this fear in mind with all clients. Even clients who have been around the evaluation block still may be fearful about the evaluation findings.
  • The evaluation results are high stakes – their job or program might be on the line. This is a reality we all work within. Sometimes our findings affect people in major ways. The evaluator must be aware of all of the implications of the work and know how the evaluation results will and could be used. Communicate evaluation findings appropriately and share interim reports with the client so no one is surprised at the findings. 
DR. EVERETT’S USEFUL TIP: Do you have clients who are truly fearful of evaluation (and not just resistant)? As you work with them, try to determine the root cause of their fear around evaluation and work with them to relieve their evaluation-induced anxiety.

DR. EVERETT’S USEFUL TIP: Do you have clients who are truly fearful of evaluation (and not just resistant)? As you work with them, try to determine the root cause of their fear around evaluation and work with them to relieve their evaluation-induced anxiety.