Ah the annual performance appraisal! Let’s deconstruct this. Annual means every year. Performance means accomplishment. Appraisal means offering a judgment on the value of something or someone. So the annual performance appraisal is a yearly judgment of another person’s value to the organization.
It should be no surprise that so many people have negative experiences with the practice; that people abhor the annual performance appraisal.
As discussed in a previous posting the annual performance appraisal is a pathway to mistrust and not to high performance. It enacts fear as the means of getting people to do what management wants—it is the go-to-lever for inciting action.
What action does one get? Self-serving action. After all one’s continued employment depends on it. Individualism not interdependence is the rule of behavior. Since ‘my’ results matters what I do for ‘me’ to get those results is what counts—in the end it’s about ‘me’ winning! As the saying goes, I don’t have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you!
The annual performance appraisal fosters the reinforcing attitude that you are on your own, which is an easy attitude to embrace given the system of economics—the context within which we conduct business—advances a self-interest focus. While the ‘you’re on your own’ message is easy to accept, because it fits together, it undermines the quality of work and the overall performance of the organization. The effect is the relationships among people are anything but helping and productive—synergy, the means to creativity, cannot possibly emerge.
The annual performance appraisal doesn’t foster a sense of interdependence among the members of the organization. So in the end, both individuals and the organization lose.
So what would be better? If the intent is to improve performance, not merely appraise it then facilitate its improvement! So how do you do that? You need a system for learning and not a system of appraisal. In short, facilitate don’t appraise! Wouldn’t facilitating—which means to aid, to further, to help—be far better?
Integrate the plan-do-study-act continuous learning and improvement cycle into every job, especially management’s. Make this cycle the essential part of everyone’s responsibility. Provide just-in-time feedback with the intent of facilitating learning. When feedback is not used for ranking, categorizing, labeling and reward/punishment—when it is not a means for accountability—then it turns from being harmful to helpful. Be a coach and counsel not a judge.
As Warren Bennis asserted, managers do things right and leaders do the right thing. So stop trying to do the annual performance appraisal right; don’t just try to get it right but rather step up—exhibit the courage to care—to do the right thing: put a stop to this foolish practice of appraisal! Stop appraising and start facilitating.