Don’t Do Performance Reviews!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about getting managers to do performance reviews:

I am a Human Resource manager and I have trouble getting managers to complete performance evaluations. Every year I try new initiatives: I wrote memo’s on the importance of the employee evaluation, defined the process, sent articles, had conversations with managers-explaining the objective, and yet I have managers who refuse to compete reviews. We even have a company policy regarding this; however, they manage to stay under the radar. The result is I have employees who are hurt and angry and think it is not fair, as some people have review while others don’t! Do you have any ideas as to how we can convince these managers to participate in the program?

Signed, Open To Suggestions

DearĀ Open To Suggestions:

Performance evaluation is an unwanted chore both for those charged with it and with those subject to it. The avowed purpose of this well established practice is to reward good performance and to correct poor. Can it work? That all depends on how well it is handled and of course if it is not avoided. In your workplace, apparently it is too often avoided. Your organization has a policy that requires performance reviews. I assume that the policy states what that entails and how often. And you certainly have tried to get your managers to follow that policy.

Possibly, you can approach the uncomfortable and too often avoided task of performance evaluation from top down and bottom up:

1. Top Down. Establish performance review as a crucial factor in a manager’s performance review. What input do you have to the performance evaluation of managers? I assume that your position as an HR manager limits you to No Input? Rather managers see you as a peer or pain in the ass that bugs them when complaints come in. Right? Who does the performance review of a manager? Is it possible for you to confer with that person and establish that a manager’s performance review should include how well she/he reviews the performance of subordinates? To pull this off, you will need to do more than speak to those who fail to review. You will need to propose that doing performance reviews is an important factor in each manager’s evaluation. This should be spelled out and how it will be measured, such as by HR gathering feedback from those who are evaluated and made a part of a manger’s review.

2. Bottom Up. Develop a systematic way for those who are reviewed or not reviewed to indicate how they assess the review? Was it performed carefully? Did the manager speak abut specific accomplishments or failures rather than general traits? Did the manager invite self-appraisal? Invite goal setting? Express concern for an individual’s circumstances that affect performance? Show concern for where this individual is on her/his career path? Firmly state how he/she has evaluated what and why of a subordinate’s behaviors? Does the manager allow for rebuttal? Take the fear out of being evaluated? This should be more than numbers given that indicate a manager scores in how he/she performs reviews. I should entail a qualitative summary. Who should be provided the raw data from those evaluated? Each manager’s manager. Who should prepare the evaluation? Each manager’s manager. Who should collect the data? HR might do that or each manager’s manager.

For performance reviews to be handled professionally/skillfully demand great effort and time. Is the practice really worth the time and effort required of managers? The evidence of this is debatable and springs more from the manager-knows-best mentality than from hard evidence. And might time and energy be better used more productively? Might performance reviews result in divisive competition among those evaluated and alienation for those who do the evaluations?In my opinion, individual performance reviews are like being graded in school. Being graded if carefully measured can tell a student what she/he has learned. It traditionally has compared one individual to others as well as to certain expected standards.

Often grading is demotivating and does nothing for to motivate cooperative learning. Workplace performance is not school, employees are not students, and managers are not teachers. Workplace outcomes depend on both intra- and inter-group cooperation. Admittedly some tasks can easily be assessed as to how well they are performed; however, most individual’s performance depends on system planners, co-workers, suppliers, and distributors.Consequently it is difficult and often impossible to fairly assess the performance of an individual. Moreover, rather than some one above who knows how well an individual performs, those know best are those who perform along side and whose own work depends on the performance of another.

Can you alone change the well-established practice of performance reviews? Definitely not. Yet might it worth engaging managers and those managed in consideration of the policy and practice? Possibly, if those at the top can be made aware the work of the gurus of quality improvement. Possibly if representatives from your organization do benchmark tours of workplaces that have found that group and organization-wide outcomes motivate and that individual performance evaluation does not.

Possibly, if you can become informed and excited about what works in Winning Workplaces.Those who have complained to you about the unevenness of who is and is not reviewed have spurred your own frustration. This problem is a monkey that should not be on your back. But trouble-shooting is one of the reasons for HR. What do your fellow professionals tell you? Will you let us know if these thoughts spark some of your own?Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden