Common Problems With Performance Appraisals

Where Do Managers Go Wrong?

Businessmen talking together in a performance appraisal meeting.
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Managers go wrong with performance appraisals in so many ways, it’s difficult to identify all of them. Here are four big problems managers and employees experience with performance appraisals.

Performance Appraisals Are Annual

Start with the fact that performance appraisals are usually annual. Employees need feedback and goal planning much more frequently than annually.

Employees need weekly, even daily, performance feedback.

This feedback keeps them focused on their most important goals. It also provides them with developmental coaching to help them increase their ability to contribute. The feedback also recognizes them for their contributions.

Employees need and respond best to clear expectations from their manager. Feedback and goal setting annually just doesn't cut it in the modern work environment. In this environment, goals are constantly changing. Work is under constant evaluation for relevance, importance, and contribution.

Customer needs change with such frequency that only the nimble respond in a timely manner. This is what performance feedback needs to do.

Performance Appraisal as a Lecture

Managers, who don't know any better, make performance appraisals into a one-way lecture about how the employee did well this year and how the employee can improve. In one example, employees reported to HR that they thought that the performance development planning meeting was supposed to be a conversation.

Their manager was using 55 of the 60 minutes to lecture his reporting staff members about their performance - both good and bad.

Additionally, once a manager tells an employee about problems with their work or a failure in their performance, employees tend to not hear anything else the manager has to say that is positive about their performance.

So, I am not a fan of the feedback sandwich in which managers praise an employee, then give the employee negative feedback that is followed, once again, by positive feedback.

So, it’s a combination problem. The best performance appraisals are a two-way discussion and focus on the employee assessing his or her own performance and setting his or her own goals for improvement.

Performance Appraisal and Employee Development

Performance appraisals rarely focus on developing the employee’s skills and abilities. They do not provide  commitments of time and resources from the organization about how they will encourage employees to develop their skills in areas of interest to the employee.

The purpose of performance evaluation is to provide developmental feedback that will help the employee continue to grow in their skills and ability to contribute to the organization. What a lost opportunity if a manager uses the meeting in any other way.

Performance Appraisals and Pay

In a fourth way performance appraisals often go astray, employers connect performance appraisals with the amount of pay raise an employee will receive. When the appraisal is a deciding factor in employee raises, it loses its ability to help employees learn.

You will train employees to hide and cover up problems. They will set their manager up to be blindsided by problems or an issue in the future. They will bring only positives to the appraisal meeting if they are a normal employee. Don’t ever expect an honest discussion about improving an employee's performance if the outcome of the discussion will affect the employee’s income. Doesn't this make perfect sense?

Let your employees know that you will base raises on a wide range of factors – and tell them what the factors are in your company annually. Employees have short memories, and you need to remind them every year about how you will make your decisions about merit increases.

Connecting the appraisal to an employee's opportunity for a salary increase negates the most important component of the process - the goal of helping the employee grow and develop as a result of the feedback and discussion at the meeting.

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