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Performance Appraisals Gone Wrong – Do’s & Don’ts

I received lots of emails last week about performance appraisals gone wrong. Some made me sad. Some made me sigh. And the ‘best of’ the worst was so outlandish it made me laugh out loud. Really laugh out loud. Not that LOL thing we overuse.

The ‘best of’ the worst examples of performance appraisals are below.

Bad example #1:  Giving mixed messages.

•   Giving an employee working on a long project gift cards as a reward and then during the performance appraisal telling her she did the whole project wrong and had to start over.

Bad example #2:  Waiting too long to give feedback.

• Giving an employee a performance appraisal six months late.

Bad example #3:  Being lazy.

• Using the employee’s self appraisal as the final appraisal, without the manager adding any of his or her own comments.

Bad example #4:  Never awarding the highest rating possible, to anyone.

• If a one is the best rating and a five is the worst rating, no one ever earns a one.

Bad example #5:  Holding people to expectations and standards but not sharing those expectations.

• Not clarifying at the beginning of the year what the expectations are and what a good job looks like.

Bad example #6:  Never giving employees feedback about their performance.

• Writing performance appraisals and documenting performance issues, but giving none of the written or verbal feedback to the employee.

Bad example #7:  Giving small amounts of vague feedback.

• Giving little to no data in the review because the manager didn’t work closely enough with the employee to observe performance directly and didn’t ask others in the organization to provide feedback.

Bad example #8 (I received this example SEVERAL times): Providing only a written appraisal.

• Handing an employee a written appraisal while in a meeting with other people and never having a conversation.

This is just hilarious:

“During my annual performance appraisal I was asked if I was manic. After a moment or two of trying to understand what my supervisor meant by the comment, I finally asked. My supervisor replied, “Well, you are so upbeat about your job all the time, I just thought you were manic. Nobody can be that happy about working here.””

The winner for being the ‘best of’ the worst:

My manager tossed my performance appraisal on my desk saying, “Just look this over and sign it. I want it back by the end of the day.” Of course, the appraisal was full of feedback and expectations that I had never received.

I told my manager, “There is a lot of information here that was never discussed with me. I would have liked the opportunity to discuss these issues before it showed up in my review.”

The manager replied, “See this is why I didn’t want to meet with you! I knew you would react badly! Just man up, take the feedback, and sign the thing! It’s due to HR today.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

Managers: If you do a little better than these ten examples of performance appraisals, you’re outperforming your manager peers. Sad but true.

Employees: You are responsible for your career happiness, success, and satisfaction, not your boss. Ask for expectations at the beginning of anything new and for regular feedback.

Take your performance into your own hands:

1. Don’t wait for your boss to set expectations. Ask your boss for his/her expectations. Get very clear on what a good job looks like, before you start working on a project and/or when the year starts.

2. Write annual goals and review them with your direct supervisor at least quarterly. During your regular one-on-ones, ask for feedback. If you don’t have regular one-on-ones, start. Ask your boss’s permission to schedule a one-on-one at least quarterly to update him/her on projects and to gather feedback.

3. Ask for regular feedback on pieces of work as you complete the work. Don’t wait until the end of a project to get feedback.

4. Ask for feedback about your overall performance once a quarter.

Ask these questions:

• How am I doing so far this year performance wise?
• What mistakes have I made from which I need to recover?
• What aspects of my work have contributed most to the organization?
• What do I need to do between now and the end of the year to ensure a positive performance appraisal?

The performance appraisal system doesn’t have to be rife with challenge and lead to disappointment. Take more control over your conversations and thus your outcomes.

About 

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at www.candidculture.com.

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