Performance Evaluations/Appraisals: Do you love them, hate
them, need them, want them? To be honest with you, Im a bit schizophrenic
about them, because all of the above apply to me.
I love them when they are meaningful, well prepared, well
thought out, and presented in a fashion that encourages true dialogue regarding
personal and career growth.
I hate them when they are meaningless, thoughtlessly put
together, based on a poor instrument, and presented in a mechanical fashion, as
if read by a machine.
I need them because they are (or should be ) the vehicle
that drives my employees’ growth in my organization and set down clearly in
writing what my expectations are for them.
I want them because
hmm let me rephrase that–I want a
well-prepared one because feedback is important to all of us.
So you see, (and I am sure I am not alone), I have a ton of
mixed emotions regarding the subject. A performance evaluation can be a
horrendous experience (regardless of the rating) if done poorly or with
disregard, or it can be a completely empowering situation for both the
supervisor and the employee, if done correctly. So given this setup, lets talk
about the primary issues one at a time, starting with:
The instrument: Performance
evaluations are usually form-based with specific instructions on how the evaluation
is supposed to be done. It is usually created by the HR department, and
generally, they allow very little leeway on modifying it. This being the case,
the instrument can be a tremendous asset in guiding you through the process or
it can be such a hindrance to the process that it acts as a barrier to creating
something that is meaningful for your employees. Some instruments are highly
structured while others are just sets of guidelines for the supervisor/appraiser
to follow. In this case, I like my instruments medium-rare, with just the right
amount of structure while giving me some flexibility to tailor things to fit
the job description of the person I am evaluating. To me, the ideal instrument
blends just the right amount of measurability with some room for
judgment/subjectivity. Remember the plays nice with others category from your
old report card? I think that kind of subjectivity needs to be included. Others
evaluations should not be a surprise nor should anything on them be news to the
employee. The employee should have a hand in what they will be measured on and
it should not change without their knowledge. And as far as actually sitting
down to prepare it, it is not a race, no matter how many you have to prepare. Doing
one haphazardly will result in a poorly-prepared appraisal and a bad session. My
favorite technique is to have employees prepare their own, and then you can sit
down with them and do a comparison. While this is NOT a negotiation session, the
opportunity to explain your reasoning results in a learning process for both
parties, and scores can be adjusted per your prerogative should you deem to do
so. My experience has been that most employees are harder on themselves than I
am, so there is always room for good discussion.
hour minimum period. You cant have a healthy dialogue that is meaningful in
less time without feeling rushed (for both parties). Additionally, its neither
a funeral nor a carnival, no matter how you rated your subordinate. I have seen
supervisors who looked like death warmed over as they called in an employee who
they were going to give a less than stellar appraisal to and then turn around
and look like they won a million bucks when calling in their next employee who
happened to be a star. Keep an even demeanor and be casual, but correct: you
dont want to make a joke out of the situation–just enough joviality to take
the edge off a potentially stressful situation. Also, dont be a machine gun
and rattle through the appraisal at a high pace just to get it over with. MEANINGFUL is what you are striving for.
Lastly is privacy. No one wants their strengths and weaknesses discussed where
others can hear. If you are cube-bound, go find a conference room to reserve
for the day. If you are lucky enough to live in a fair-weather state, and there
is a fountain or park nearby that can offer you some privacy and a pleasant
setting at the same time–use it! Even if you are not cube-bound, finding
somewhere other than your office removes the stigma of being called to the
boss’s office, if your staff do not already frequent there.
And, I almost forgot: Earlier, I said that the appraisal
should not be a surprise because the subordinate helped create it. But, it
should also not be a surprise because you are already communicating how an
employee is doing on a regular basis. If performance-appraisal day is the only
day of the year that your employees are getting feedback from you, you are
doing something wrong. Additionally, lets hope your behavior on a daily basis
is consistent with your appraisal. If you are telling Jim great job! everyday
and then reaming him out during the appraisal, you have got your wires crossed
somewhere and you had better re-evaluate your own performance.
Now that you have some guidelines, feel free to carry on your
love-hate relationship with performance appraisals–know I will.