I recently sat through one of the worst performance appraisals I’d ever seen. The reviewer was the CEO and the person being reviewed was a high level executive in a large company. The review had two parts.
Part I – Five minutes of the CEO patting the executive on the back for the things he’d done right – honesty, openness, integrity.
Part II – Twenty-five minutes of the CEO haranguing the executive on areas to improve, never once mentioning the goals that been jointly established at the beginning of the year.
It wasn’t pretty.
Why do so many performance appraisals cause aggravation and confusion? Why are so many talented employees frustrated because of them?
Here is a list of the biggest mistakes bosses make in performance reviews.*
1. Too vague – there’s usually lots of “You do good work” and “Keep it up.” language in the meeting. But how does a report interpret that as feedback and how will they know what to work on for next year? Be specific about what you liked and didn’t like about their performance.
2. No preparation – Some bosses like to do performance appraisals “on the fly”. This approach typically means the boss hasn’t given any thought to how the report has done in the past year and how they need to improve. Even worse is the boss who cuts and pastes from last year’s appraisal with few if any changes.
3. They never happen at all – Some bosses say, “My door is always open, my people know they can come and talk to me any time.” Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen.
4. Not being truthful – We all know Mr. Nice Guy bosses who can’t ever bring themselves to give negative feedback. We also know bosses who can never say anything good; they always complain. Most people appreciate negative and/or positive feedback that’s truthful.
5. No follow-up – As part of every performance review, goals should be set for the coming year. The worst bosses forget about these goals as soon as the paper is filed, then twelve months later the old form gets pulled out and discussed again and new goals are set. To be effective, goals have to be top-of-mind for both the report and the boss throughout the year.
6. No discussion around the report’s career ambitions – Most people don’t think a lot about their career path, yet they need to be asked “What do you want to do?” or “Where do you want to go?” on every appraisal date. It forces the employee to look at himself or herself in the mirror. Some will realize they’re not where they want to be; others will use the discussion to soak up tips from the boss and end up being more engaged and motivated in their jobs.
Doing performance reviews on your employees might not be fun, but doing them right can be an effective and powerful tool for building loyalty and great performance.
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*Forbes.com, Eric Jackson, “Ten Reasons Performance Reviews Are Done Terribly”
“The respect of those you respect is worth more than the applause of the multitude.”
~ Arnold Glasow