Stop Dreading & Start Loving Performance Assessments

Writing in the Wall Street Journal back in 2008, Samuel A. Culvert called for an end to the performance review. By late 2015, HBR published “Why More and More Companies Are Ditching Performance Ratings.” Last summer I looked at some arguments against the reviews as they are currently administered.

Recently one of my clients told me about his evolving assessment methods–I was so impressed, I asked him to write it up for you. For obvious reasons, he requested anonymity. Here it is:

As I prepared for the performance review of one of my direct reports, I became increasingly frustrated.  This person performs well, but my responses (mostly numbers indicating degrees of proficiency in some areas) on the form were not glowing, and I became concerned that the eventual meeting to discuss the report would engender confusion or outright resentment.

Digging deeper, I realized that the form was not adequate to the task, that I had concerns I could not bury with 2+ marks, and that I needed to clear the air with this employee before finalizing the review.

I spoke with her, confessed my dissatisfaction with my responses on the form, and proposed a meeting to chat about general performance issues, something outside the actual review process.

In this conversation, I let her know that I wanted to share some thoughts about how she works and have a dialogue about some of these issues, which would include time for her to explain the choices that were of concern to me.  Then, we would return to the form and schedule the official review.  My concerns were about— (Here I deleted the list of specific concerns. SA)

With these issues on the table, I was able to use the (poor, over-written) form to share more objective assessments and we were able to agree that some areas would not be reviewed because they do not easily refer to her work.  We were also able, however, to discuss her work, and the attitude she projects, in a context of leadership – leading people to the answer needed, leading newer employees to respect the people with whom she regularly interacts, and leading perceptions about our department.

Even if not acknowledged, reviews are two-way assessments and I realized that I had not shared my reactions to some behaviors.  Instead of penalizing her for the behaviors and for my incomplete supervision, the review helped me understand that the quality of her work deserved a better conversation.  I needed to open dialogue about my concerns, listen to her issues, and share goals before locking us into the document.

After this, if I were to design a review form, it would require the manager to review his/her performance first, then to deal with the inherent competencies and patterns of the employee – it would review the relationship, then the actual performance.

Has your company evolved in its assessment methods? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

 

 

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