When used correctly, the performance appraisal process is a useful technique to hold employees accountable for desired results, and aligning them with business strategy. It also provides a dialog to facilitate career development, training assessment and performance improvement planning. Good performance appraisals result in the following outcomes:
- Commonly understood job performance results and future expectations between the employee and their supervisor.
- Employees feeling they were fairly treated and accountable for desired behaviors and results.
- A clear performance assessment at a given point in time covering the defined rating period.
- Discussion summary of positive and constructive feedback with no surprises.
- Defining employee development objectives, and discussion of career goals.
- Plans to help the employee grow and improve, including training assessment and planning.
- New employee work objectives and performance expectations for the upcoming appraisal period. This should be a collaborative process involving the employee as much as possible.
- Achievement of job expectations, objectives and performance requirements.
An effective performance appraisal process takes strong leaders who not only learn how best to use this tool, but effectively plan work objectives, clearly communicate expectations to employees, monitor on-going performance, provide timely feedback, and maintain good documentation long before the one-on-one appraisal meeting. Good performance leadership is a daily process of communications and involvement from the leader, not a once-a-year meeting with employees.
Over the years, some leaders have taken on bad performance appraisal habits that can make the process ineffective and uncomfortable for leaders and employees alike. The following are deadly appraisal habits that must be overcome to maximize the performance appraisal process.
“NINE DEADLY APPRAISAL HABITS”
- Annual Performance Only – Dealing with performance issues only once a year is a recipe for disaster. Positive feedback is so late it lacks in its motivating power, and constructive feedback is usually vague and brings out defensiveness. Employee are generally surprised and upset with the feedback. The leader blames the bad system for their now having to deal with employee conflict and low morale.
- Unclear Expectations – Some leaders do not clearly communicate what they expect to be accomplished during the year. In many instances, they don’t even know what good performance looks like. There is a huge gap between how employees and their supervisor perceive performance expectations.
- Fire Fight Appraisal – The fire fighter supervisor is so busy that the appraisal is seen as an obstacle that is preventing him or her from doing things that “really matter” in their mind. The attitude is “Let’s hurry and get these appraisals done so I can get human resources off my back”. The appraisal process is haphazardly done and the employee is left feeling like they don’t matter and the process was a waste of time.
- Inconsistent Implementer – Inconsistency in how the leader applies corrective action, appraisal scores, promotions and other employment decisions is a quick route to low morale, employee problems and maybe even discrimination law suits.
- Political Application – This is where the supervisor uses the appraisal tool to manipulate salary increases or promotions for his or her team. For example, scoring someone higher to get their pay where they want it to be even though the scores were not earned. This undermines the appraisal process and discredits the leader. It can also come back to haunt the leader if they’ve given strong scores and then need to terminate the employee.
- Rater Errors in Recall, Rating process, and Observation – Some supervisors try to remember everything on their own without keeping good notes throughout the year resulting in recall errors. Others don’t follow the appraisal training or rating process resulting in inconsistency throughout the company. Some leaders misperceive performance and fail to adequately gather the facts.
- The Generalist – These supervisors like to speak in generalities without providing any specific examples or substance to their comments that helps the employee clearly understand either what they did right or wrong. Generalities cause defensiveness and are a poor way to communicate.
- The Defender – I’m right, you’re wrong and I’ll tell you why by defending my views throughout the meeting. This approach can cause the employee to close off, disengage in the discussion, escalate in defensiveness or eliminate his openness to do things differently.
- Everybody Like Me – These supervisors are so concerned about being liked by their employees that they falsify scores and avoid confronting performance concerns. Their appraisal may be used against the company in a wrongful termination lawsuit or be viewed as a joke.
This document will discuss how to resolve these challenges and make the appraisal process effective.