Tag Archives: employees

Performance Reviews – Both sides of the coin

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.

  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.

Looking for a smart PRD at your organization, get in touch with us at myneed@pragatileadership.com or call +91 20 66462900, +91 9049000534

by Aman Zaidi



Organisations are much like humans. They grow, they forge and manage relationships, they play nurturers and yes, they want to live past a hundred. It would make sense for organisations to do another human thing – make New Year resolutions (beyond the financial goals they set for themselves every financial year!!)

Here are a few things that I would love to see organisations resolve to do, starting this year:

Focus on Strengths – Align people to roles where they can use their innate Strengths as opposed to roles where they are merely competent. This is what will move your organisation from “competent” to “Strong”.


At the very least, Employ a Competency based approach – Use Competency Based Interviewing (preferably in conjunction with Strengths instruments) and use Assessment Centres before promoting employees. The science will take the guesswork out of hiring and promoting, saving organisation the heavy costs that result from poor performance and rehiring.

Focus on creating “Interpersonal Wealth” – It’s a more equal world than ever before. Traditional

power roles don’t hold much importance any more. Employees are less intimidated by their bosses than they used to be. There is a plethora of options out there today.


Similarly, wives are not subservient to husbands and children are not to their parents (at least in the urban world). It is just not possible to pull rank, to get things done on the basis of hierarchy – there is no hierarchy. What is needed is excellent interpersonal skill – so good that it gets termed

“Intrpersonal Wealth”! From just getting along to forging deeper relationships to having enough personal power to influence outcomes, it is interpersonal wealth that will be responsible for making organisations thrive. The smart organisation will invest in helping their employees develop this because it will impact not only their relationships with their customers and peers but also impact how well they are doing in their personal lives. Just like some organisations are investing in…

The physical health of their employees – Repetitive Stress Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel, Blackberry

Thumb, Computer Vision Syndrome, neck and shoulder pain, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Insomnia, Stress, what not! The human body is more perishable a resource these days than it ever was! Mandatory Provident Funds and Insurance are not enough. Mandatory exercise and fitness levels, mandatory limitation on working hours, mandatory vacations, ergonomic seating, “optional standing desks” and counsellors in the office – there are some things that are being done by some organisations. Many more need to be still done by a lot more organisations. The definition of workplace safety too needs to be revisited.

Employee Engagement – For those organisations that are not measuring and improving engagement yet, please partner with organizations like Gallup, Mercer, Hay Group or us. It’s a vitally important metric and in an increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace, it is set to become even more important. In fact, I would like to see it being discussed at shareholder meetings!

Ethical – We live in difficult times, corrupt times. Recent political events in India suggest that there’s a wave rising against (financial, if not yet moral) corruption. If this is a genuinely new India, it won’t be long before people start paying more attention to corporate corruption (eg. data manipulation or payoffs to obtain ISO or eSCM type of certifications; or corporate-politician nexuses). These are times to be exemplary leaders, to show other organisations and employees the way.


Environment – There are more reasons why these are difficult times. Industry and humanity are almost locked in a battle for our earth’s meagre resources – water, land, minerals etc. It’s an age where the words “more” and “consumption” are possibly heard more In conversations than “thank you” and “please”! No one knows the meaning of moderation or restraint (neither corporations, nor politicians, nor the affluent, nor the middle class, nor Phaneesh, nor Tejpal). In such times, it’s important to think about the impact of our actions on others now and on ourselves eventually.

We need to stop and think about how what we do affects those around us. Trees, tribals, minerals, mountains, seas, soil, air, water, fuel.


 CSR – Being responsible members of society. Ensuring the well being of the vicinity and the people we share this landmass with.Walking the path of the man who spoke of pursuing the greatest good of all.

About the Author:

Aman Zaidi, The author is passionate about employee engagement and facilitates a signature workshop called Creating Involved Employees


What Organisations can Learn from Masterchef Australia

I don’t watch much TV, and I definitely don’t watch reality shows, but in a contradiction of all of that, I do get to see Masterchef Australia pretty regularly because of my better half’s interest in all things culinary. I’ve been following the 2012 edition on Star World.

I’ve always admired the show for the warmth of the judges, the lack of obtrusive background music and melodrama. In contrast, whatever little I’ve seen of Indian reality TV, is replete with melodrama, playing to the gallery, their harsh, rude judges, and is therefore so (how do I put this mildly) unappetising.

Apart from the inherent civility of Masterchef Australia, one thing that strikes me is that it’s a role model for how organisations should be run. Consider this:

Aspirants come to the show relatively raw. While it’s a contest, what stands out about the show is not the competitive spirit of the participants but the camaraderie. At stake is a big, prestigious prize, but there’s no bitter rivalry that is visible. How do the judges, producers etc. manage to keep things so civil despite the “recipe” being ripe for acrimony?

It’s a great statement for Australia, generally thought to be a rude and boisterous country, mostly because of what we read about them, especially about their cricketers. (Even their cricketers seem better behaved these days!)

There are two lessons in there for Organisations.

1. Competition doesn’t need to be cutthroat. You can compete like crazy, but always be gracious in either victory or in defeat. And the Leadership can create a Culture that is more camaraderie & collaboration than competition. More We than me.

2. How your people are seen by the outside world, does a lot for your Brand as an organisation. This, coupled with the above point could have telling implications on the type of employees who will want to come and join you.

Now, these raw aspirants are brought on after checking how good their skills are. Meaning that they are being hired for tasks that they have demonstrated the competency to deliver on.

Next, they are put through cooking test after cooking test. Their skills are tested, they’re constantly challenged. What is noteworthy is what happens during this process. The judges or the experts walk around to each of the contestants briefly asking them how they’re doing. They give them gentle suggestions on what may be going wrong (or could go wrong), they give them tips and suggestions as to what they could do right.

Once the dish is done, and has been tasted, the feedback from the experts is exemplary. Their demeanour and tone is friendly, gentle and encouraging. The feedback is never personal; it’s always about that particular dish/attempt. They talk about what went well with the dish. They give specific feedback on what didn’t go well. And they also say what they would have liked to see instead. And this feedback is being provided in public. And at the end of it, everyone applauds the “effort”. It isn’t “all about the result” kind of show.

Lessons for Organisations (3, 4, 5 & 6):

3. Hire for competence or skill. Get your people trained on and using Competency Based Interviewing.

4. While your people are at work, walk around, supervise, offer suggestions, but don’t hover around. Make an attempt to offer your expertise, don’t just sit there waiting for the work to arrive at your desk. Invest some time in coaching your people, in between if not during tasks.

5. Get your Feedback Skills right. It’s the difference between a boorish workplace and an encouraging one.

6. Applaud the effort. Just because someone got it wrong, doesn’t mean he/she didn’t try hard. As long as you saw them (refer to # 4 above) try hard, praise their effort, offer feedback on what they should do going ahead, and send them on with words of encouragement.

Whether you’re a top leader or a manager, make sure that you and all your managers have got all these above skills right.

While it’s a competition, the Masterchef journey isn’t primarily viewed as that by the participants as that. They seem to look at it as a tremendous learning opportunity. Replete with tasks, feedback, Masterclasses, restaurant and market tours, foreign locales, and what not, each participant knows that he/she is learning more by the day.

Let’s move to the exits. Mercifully, isn’t through audience voting! It’s through a panel of experts who judge with absolute transparency.

Every time a participant exits the show, they seem to be saying the same things – How wonderful they thought this opportunity was, how thankful they are to the show & the judges for the opportunity, to have learnt so much. And many if not most of them move on to their dreams of starting restaurants or being chefs at restaurants! It really seems to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for them!

 Lessons for Organisations (7, 8, 9 & 10):

7. Organisations while they’re chasing down projects, targets, deadlines, should primarily seek to be Learning Organisations. Each day, each task, each project (because of # 4, 5 & 6 above) should be seen as an opportunity to excel, but also to learn something new, master a new skill.

8. Organise Masterclasses by Experts, for your people to learn/hone skills from these experts. The organisational equivalent of these expert Masterclasses would be Training.

9. Mix it up. Make sure that people keep learning new things. If you let monotony set in, you only have yourself to blame. Refer to Csikszentmihalyi’s work on Flow.

10. Imagine a workplace, an organisation where people thank their managers and leaders when they get fired. Where they step out smiling, knowing that what they have learnt will stand them in good stead. I’m not recommending you fire anyone. If you do the above things right, you may never have to, but consider this more likely scenario: Your people are learning so much, having so much fun, have such great leaders & colleagues-comrades that they don’t want to leave! If people have to leave, or move on, they do

so most unwillingly. And even when they do, they leave grateful for all that you have done for them.

Do we have set-ups like that in the world of business? Yes we do. Can you become one? Yes you can. Masterchef Australia is showing you how.

By Aman Zaidi