5 Reasons Performance Appraisals Fail

This month’s TTI hot topic is Turning Performance Appraisals from Subjective to Objective and thanks to TTI and this month’s collaborative experts to help get my thoughts together for this blog. My Dad, and founder of Lisk Associates, always believed the annual appraisal was one of the worst dysfunctions in any organization. And, after I had worked at a Fortune 500 Company for seven years, I had to agree with him on that.  That’s one thing I will never miss.   It’s not only bad for the employee, it’s bad for the manager as well. According to TTI, 90% of all managers reported they dislike conducting the performance appraisal. Why does this time-honored tradition fall short and leave everybody with a bad taste in their mouth? Here are five reasons why performance appraisals fail:

1. Some managers are too nice. They sugarcoat the negative.  They are missing an opportunity to help their employee grow.  You know the managers that laugh-off negative news and joke their way out of a tough conversation.  They are at the very least uncomfortable, and have probably never been trained on how to give constructive feedback.

2. Nobody prepares.  Appraisals and Interviews is where this happens the most.  Managers are typically so overwhelmed, or dare I say engrossed, on their own tasks and numbers, they don’t take any time to prepare for arguably two of the most important types of meetings they have in their job.  And, isn’t it so obvious when a manager hasn’t taken the time to thoughtfully do their homework?

3. Bias.  ”Well, I only scored one’s and two’s because he just doesn’t like me”.  Or, how about this…if you’re on the right side of the bias, it works great for you.  When’s the last time you heard someone say, I just got a 10% merit raise and I really didn’t deserve it.  Bias doesn’t bother me, but I know how to manage it.  In fact, one of the focuses of our firm, and one of the things I believe we are very good at is eliminating job-based bias.  Here’s a secret to eliminating bias:  Invite in everybody’s bias: because everybody, and I mean everybody has bias.

4. The employee has no idea what the evaluation criteria is. See reasons one, two, and three as they all flow into this one. One of the signs of a miserable job according to Patrick Lencioni is “immeasurability”. Meaning, you have no idea if you’ve had a good day or a bad day on the job.

5. Inconsistency. When I worked for a Fortune 500 company, I once had four different managers in a 12-month period. That was not uncommon as the company encouraged people to take on new projects, new assignments, and new people. It made for tough annual reviews though. Sometimes I thought, just cut the crap, give me my 3% raise and move on to something you’re more fired up about.

One of my best managers said to me, “Ryan, you can come in my office and complain about anything. And once you’re done belly-achin’, you better have some ideas on how to fix what you’re complaining ’bout, or you ain’t gonna be allowed to come bitchin’ no more.”

In that spirit, I try to never “bitch & run”. So, if you’re interested on improving your performance appraisal system, give us a call or email, we’d be happy to listen your story as long as you have some ideas to make things better. Happy Thanksgiving!

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