For most of us, the oft dreaded annual performance appraisal rears its ugly head at least once a year. Loathed by the majority of managers & employees alike, one’s approach to performance appraisals is a sure-fire way to experience a positive or negative outcome. Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at what’s really going on here.
Compare the similarities between effective managers and effective parents. Good ones take an active interest in their charges and don’t leave them to fend for themselves. Don’t you think workplace protégés want to know there’s someone truly interested in their growth and development, someone who is readily available to help, willing and able to nourish them, and sincerely caring that they have a good day?
Effective, managers (like parents) keep abreast of what’s going on with their employees. They keep in touch with their successes and challenges; they take an interest in helping develop their people’s careers and they talk frequently with their employees about what they need or want!
HR blogger, Richard A. Albright Jr. says performance apraisals “are the most misused and abused management tool in history.” Boy, does that hit the nail on the head! Most people lose sight of the fact that performance appraisals are so much more than productivity evaluations. In its highest and best form, true Zen and The Art of Performance Appraisals is practiced when managers and employees take the opportunity to adjust their courses and grow.
Good appraisals not only highlight an employee’s recent successes and their potential for promotion (I know we all love to hear that we’ve been noticed in a good way), but they also tell employees they’ve been noticed … in a productive way. They remind us about the times we’ve strayed and help us diagnose where we went wrong so we can avoid those pitfalls in the future. They tell us if someone thinks we can benefit from additional training so, in essence, the appraisal period is a time to give and receive honest and productive feedback and get better at our jobs. Why doesn’t it happen? FEAR perhaps? ([email protected]#$%)
Surprise! You shouldn’t surprise employees in their performance appraisals! Nor should either of you dread the process. Let me ask you … how often do you talk “performance” with your employees or hear from your boss? Wouldn’t it be nice to get a read on how you’re doing more often than once a year? That’s what sets apart great managers! They sneak in the occasional but frank conversations about how their employees’ assignments are coming along, what they’d like to see changed in their work and what they’d like their people to do to improve in certain areas of concern. It’s a non-combative, constructive, and well-intended conversation without all the drama. Great workplace relationships begin over this well-placed candor!
Now, for those of you who just barked, “Hey, I don’t have the kind of time you’re talking about to sit down with every one of my employees on a recurring basis.” I say, “I hear you but …”
… let me ask, “If you don’t have time for casual, performance-based conversations with your employees, do you ever have casual conversations with them?” (and if you don’t, shame on you!) If you do, isn’t it also possible to inject some productive conversation into those talks? For those of you who are willing to try, I can almost guarantee that in a very short time you will see workplace improvements and you will also get back some of that precious time we all want (or need) to accomplish our own work assignments. You also won’t find your time unexpectedly devoured by litigious or other equally avoidable consequences! Think about it … when great performers leave you, how much time do you spend finding equally great replacements and how much time to you spend training them to level up to expected performance? That learning curve has great costs! Conversely, when you are party to the demotion (or worse) of a substandard performer, it’s near certainty that you’ll be drawn into unanticipated (and time-consuming) litigious activities once that complaint is filed.
The performance appraisal is an end-of-process activity tied to everything else that happens the rest of the year. It’s a process that requires managers and employees to converse regularly & productively if it’s going to be worthwhile.
(more on this topic in next week’s Blog with the HR GovGal.)