11 Mistakes Managers Make in the Performance Appraisal

 In Leadership Development, leadership training, Performance Management, Rick Conlow

Most employees dread a performance appraisal. Why? Quite frankly managers are poor at it. So, most end up doing more damage than good.

Nearly all bigger companies have gone to online systems to manage the process. This adds some accountability and quality control. Yet, managers still lack the skills to be effective. In addition, online systems tend to take extra time and are cumbersome. So, there is a lot of policing that has to be done. Furthermore, the once a year review is simply bogus and outdated. This is old technology. It would like using the early 1980’s Advanced Mobile Phone System today versus current Smartphone’s.

11 Mistakes Managers Make in the Performance AppraisalA tremendous amount is at stake in performance reviews. First, an employee’s career progress, and self-confidence are challenged. A poorly done review can sour anyone’s morale quickly. Second, an appraisal sets the tone for an employee’s experience, and performance for the coming year. Third, your success as a leader is influenced. Similarly, consider how high employee disengagement is in so many places. What does that tell us?

11 Performance Appraisal Mistakes

Here are the thirteen mistakes bosses make in a performance appraisal process. And, how to fix them.

  1. Annual or six month review: Instead, meet monthly with employees one on one. Discuss goals, plans, strengths, and progress. Keep it casual, as a performance discussion not an evaluation. In addition, engage employees in informal coaching at regular opportunities. Companies like GAP, GE and Adobe are already getting this done. This adds to a more trusting relationship because it is done in “real time.” Consequently, a company’s yearly or six month formal review will be easier to do. Furthermore, you and the employee will be on the same page.
  2. The recency effect: If you don’t do regular performance discussions this will kick in. Unless, of course, you have a photographic memory.
  3. Limited preparation: This is laziness and unprofessional. Set a date and keep the appointment. Invest serious time in the review. Complete all necessary forms in your company system. Also, have the employee do the evaluation form in advance. Treat employees like the greatest resource of the company. They are, don’t you agree?
  4. Monologue not a dialogue: Include the employee in the process. Have a dialogue about the details. Listen and ask questions. Come to a consensus on the evaluation. This means substantial agreement. As a result, by talking about performance all year, this is a no-brainer. If not, you will probably have issues. Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand.”
  5. Giving vague feedback: This helps no one. Be specific. Check this out, How to Give Feedback When You Are the Leader.
  6. Lack of flexibility: When talking about performance you have to pay attention to the level of the employee. Experienced or inexperienced? Hard headed or emotional? Plus, be fair, give a higher rating when it is earned. Don’t give an average rating to a poor performer. It isn’t going to inspire them to be better.
  7. Avoiding poor performance: Without talking about poor performance is like building a house by a lake and ignoring the water. Deal with in the monthly discussions.
  8. Dishonesty: Seriously, be honest. Some companies give people good evaluations that don’t deserve them. Later, they lay them off or fire them to satisfy Wall Street. It only degrades your character if you whitewash the truth.
  9. Not discussing self-development needs or career goals: A key area in a performance appraisal and discussion involves establishing plans for career development. Most of the time a one page plan will suffice. A leader’s role involves getting things done well today. In addition, it requires planning to do better tomorrow. Thus, any manager needs the team learning and growing.
  10. Not setting or updating goals and plans: RCI research shows that a lack of clear expectations and goals causes 80% of performance problems. This is a key part of needed planning that you discuss month to month all year long. What are the priority goals for this employee? What are the action steps to exceed the goals?  Document this in 1-2 pages.
  11. Focusing only on negative gaps and not giving recognition: While some employees have more “negatives” to discuss, nearly all have some positives, too. By including the employees in performance discussions, more positives will come out. Reinforce those that apply. Besides, emphasize strengths in the action planning. People do perform better with a constructive feedback.
  12. Bonus: Not following through: A performance appraisal requires coaching. Be a champion here. It adds to your credibility with your team. Therefore, don’t forget, your on-going informal performance discussions fit that bill.

11 Mistakes Managers Make in the Performance AppraisalAnother concern is discussing salary. This makes the performance review even more emotional. Whether or not a person gets a salary increase or bonus adds to the pressure. Consequently, do this in a separate meeting. Don’t do it during the review.

The Performance Appraisal: Pulling it all Together 

Above all, performance management takes work. Leading takes work. Employees have problems that are messy at times. If this whole thing was easy, anyone could do it. Great managers put in the sweat equity that leads to better team performance. Put in the effort if you want the appraisal process to really work.

In summary, businessman Doug Conant had insightful wisdom. He said, “Trust gives you the permission to give people direction, get everyone aligned, and give them the energy to go get the job done. Trust enables you to execute with excellence and produce extraordinary results.  As you execute with excellence and deliver on your commitments, trust becomes easier to inspire, creating a flywheel of performance.”

11 Mistakes Managers Make in the Performance AppraisalWant to accelerate your leadership and coaching skills? See this complimentary guide, How to Motivate People: 10 Keys to Employee Engagement. 
Do you want a proven game-plan for career success? If so, check out Rick’s Superstar Leadership book.

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Rick Conlow
Rick Conlow is the CEO & Founder of Rick Conlow International, a consulting, training and coaching firm. He has helped over 200 companies such as Target, Costco, Andersen Windows, Spectrum, Northern Power, Meijer, Carpet King, International Truck, John Deere, Lowes Financial, and Canadian Linen improve customer loyalty, increase sales and add profits. Rick has been a general manager, vice president, training director, program director, and national sales trainer. He has authored 22 books, and regularly speaks at conferences and to audiences of all sizes.
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