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In the years that I’ve been facilitating workshops, the one topic that all the participants are unhappy with are their ‘appraisals’. It appears to be a fairly universal source of anguish.

Why is this so? Allow me to share a few of my observations.

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  1. The purpose of ‘Appraisal’ discussions seems to be misunderstood. They’re seen by employees as an excuse for the manager to confine them into a certain ‘rating’ bracket, to find fault with them, to negotiate salary raises or promotion opportunities. Many managers often have a similar view and are worried that the intended conversation will become an argument. The purpose of this discussion is NOT to give a rating. The purpose of this discussion is to talk with employees about their performance during a certain period and to set goals for the coming period. The purpose is to help employees find ways to better their performance. It is an opportunity to demonstrate to employees that their manager is committed to their growth and development.
  2. If you think about it, even the term ‘appraise’ can be mildly offensive, in its true sense it means judging or evaluating. Most people don’t like being judged or even evaluated. They fell they are treated less as people and more as inanimate objects. This whole business of ratings has further muddied the waters. They’re Performance Review Discussions, not Rating Conversations! Unless employees and managers see that, these conversations are going to be fraught with mistrust and heartburn. It’s important to explain to employees that ratings only come after the discussion and to also explain the science behind the rating to them. It is not right for managers to say, “It’s the same process for everyone”. That is not the same thing as explaining the science behind it. The science of rating is also an inexact one, and many large organizations are doing away with commonly used rating methods.
  3. The discussions take place only yearly or half yearly! The intervening period is usually devoid of any discussions around performance! This furthers the perception of it being a mere Rating exercise instead of it being an opportunity to help employees improve their performance.
  4. The culture of the organization also makes a huge difference. During my tenure at a reputed IT/ITES organization, I was introduced to a great policy. Employees were informed that if they were dissatisfied with their Performance Review, they could dispute it with a panel. This helped ensure that the Performance Review was a fair one and that the manager did a good job at it. If a manager hadn’t done a good job, the panel’s ruling would help her/ him understand what they could do better next time. Conversely, there are organizations where senior management publicly announces to the employees that 30% of their Review will depend on whether their manager ‘likes’ them. Statements like this do nothing to build trust and change the perception that Performance Reviews are ‘pointless’.

If you’re concerned about Performance Review Discussions in your organization, just keep in mind the purpose of these discussions. That will go a long way in ensuring that these conversations are a lot easier than they as they are currently made out to be.

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by Aman Zaidi