by Kathy Cooperman
It’s that time of year again for many organizations—Performance Appraisal time. This is the most dreaded time of year for many.
Managers brace themselves for heavy paperwork and potentially unpleasant discussions. Employees brace for unwelcome, critical feedback.
Why do such efforts continue since most employees hate the experience and most managers dread it? A recent Forbes article stated that “performance reviews are artifacts left over from the Industrial Revolution.” The article goes on to explain that the process is a “power and control” mechanism designed to remind everyone who is the boss.
Ideally, performance reviews are a systematic process designed to provide evaluative feedback to employees about their performance when compared to a pre-determined standard or criteria. Such reviews include both positive feedback and constructive criticism that highlights areas for improvement.
Conducted effectively, performance evaluations do have the power to motivate improved performance. The performance review process is generally repeated annually. Critical steps include:
• Set mutually agreed-upon goals and establish performance expectations
• Monitor performance, noting measurable data and observable behaviors
• Complete a written report
• Communicate results face-to-face when possible
o Two-way communication is best: in addition to receiving the manager’s observations, the employee offers self-observations
Some of the most common complaints include:
1. Recency effect
The supervisor fails to keep up with critical incidents throughout the evaluation period. Under time pressure, he or she recalls only the most recent incidents, overlooking the performance that occurred throughout the year.
2. Halo/horns effect
Early on, an employee has made either a highly favorable or unfavorable impression upon the boss. The busy boss then views almost all actions as good or bad, thereby distorting a fair and objective evaluation.
3. Central tendency
The boss simply goes down the rating instrument and checks the middle score all the way down the page. Clearly, he or she has given little thought to the individual’s performance along different dimensions.
4. Poor writing skills
Some bosses have very poor writing skills, creating the impression that an employee is mediocre at best. Then, when performance is compared across departments, the boss who has rated his or her employees with glowing, descriptive words appears to have the stronger employees.
The boss plays “Santa Claus” with performance ratings. He or she tends to rate almost everyone as outstanding, showing very little differentiation among employees’ performance.
Evaluations During a Pandemic
Our current COVID crisis has impacted the ability to observe performance as in the past.
If you are working remotely, you can share performance reviews effectively by
• Understanding that employees are facing unique work situations (e.g., juggling child-care, home schooling, sharing space with the family, barking dogs, etc.)
• Using a reliable platform for “face-to-face” reviews
• Scheduling plenty of time to share two-way communication and allow employees to ask questions, offer comments, etc.
• Setting the stage for a productive and helpful meeting by using a calming tone, moving along at a relaxed pace, and scheduling the meeting at a mutually convenient time.
Kathy Cooperman, an executive coach and leadership expert, is the president and founder of KC Leadership Consulting LLC. For more information, contact her at email@example.com, www.kathycooperman.com or 1 (866) 303-1996 or 303-522-2114.