What Does It Mean To Be a 3 on a Performance Review?

Posted by Taylor • September 1, 2016 (Last modified August 29, 2023) • 3 min read

The five-point Rating scale, we see it everywhere. From restaurant ratings, to movie ratings, and even the employee (or manager) performance review, a five-point scale is becoming the norm when talking about how successful something, or someone, may be.


When it comes to interpreting what each rating on a rating scale means, the definition of the ratings become relative to the individual completing the interpretation. What I mean is, what may be a one-star experience to one individual, could be a five-star experience to another, and they would rate it as such. Specifically, in the performance review world, this makes it difficult to create a general understanding of an average score on a rating scale – one that tells the employee that they are doing everything they need to be doing to complete the require responsibilities, and be successful at their job.


Read More About How Rating Scales Can Be A Systemic Barrier


On a five-point rating scale, ratings typically lie between unsatisfactory to outstanding, from one to five, respectively, with a three generally representing a rating similar to satisfactory. In a verbal conversation, satisfactory sounds great, and not very many people question the meaning of that word, so what’s the catch with satisfactory on the performance review? The two ratings that lie ahead of it. Innately, everyone wants to believe they’re doing the best job they possibly could be doing and they want to make sure that they are representing that to their employer in the way that they’re rating themselves, thus scoring consistently in the fours and fives, scared that a chosen three might be not good enough, or an accurate enough reflection; when in reality, a three on the rating is scale is where most employees should be rating themselves on a rating scale.


Read More About Why Words Matter


Here’s the deal, what needs to be taught to employees is this: a three on the rating scale is not bad…a three is actually great! It’s exactly where, as employees, they need to be. A three represents that they are able to complete their job accurately and appropriately on a day-to-day basis, with minimal problems or concerns.  A three should never be looked down upon as a negative score, or not good enough, but rather where they should strive to be. It should be taught that once they are able to accurately represent themselves as satisfactory at their day-to-day responsibilities, that they then can work to grow to be competent enough in their strengths to truly earn those four and five scores on the rating scale.


Although this is not a change that can be made overnight, it’s important to begin accurately reflecting this belief in the performance review – score threes, encourage threes, and praise threes. When employees begin to understand this means that they’re doing what they need to be doing, and successfully at that, a three will no longer begin to seem scary, and companies will begin to receive a much more accurate report of how their employees are truly doing.


See How Companies Are Re-Thinking The Rating Scale


Interested in how a rating scale overhaul could change your performance review? Reach out to Trakstar today to learn about some of our most popular rating scales.


Don't Miss Out on More Great HR Articles!

Subscribe to get the latest, greatest HR and Talent Development content straight to your inbox.