My good friend and mentor Mr. E.B.John rightfully drew attention (SN, 23/3/12, pp7-8) to the dangers of deficient application of the systemic/methodological aspects of Performance Appraisals to which employees are often subjected. And he correctly (please pardon my presumption, Earl) warns line managers and HR practitioners of the possibilities of ‘legalistic’ action by employees for non-conformance with the established Performance Appraisal systems, even those that might be structurally faulty.
As a rejoinder, I would like to draw attention to the less formal but most important, meaningful and critically important informal aspects such as the simple, yet far-reaching impact of honest feedback to employees regarding their performance, their strengths and shortcomings without deflating them but rather challenging them to do better. Far too often supervisors avoid the crucial, honest, sincere, developmental one-to-one discussion between them and their supervisees and instead focus on filling the Performance Appraisal form using ‘safe’ language to avoid ‘confrontation’ or recourse, legal or otherwise.
Another complication is the nexus between the formal performance appraisal and salary increases. Often the difficulty or impossibility of establishing a direct correlation between ‘the performance’ and ‘the pay’ compromises or constrains the effectiveness of the Performance Appraisal system. Some companies therefore opt for separating the two so that the Performance Appraisal exercises are seen as a more non-financial, staff-motivational and developmental exercise as opposed to an exercise directly related to compensation….an approach that many regard as too idealistic or unrealistic.
By far the worst case scenario is that where supervisors use the Performance appraisal system to threaten, coerce, subdue, penalize or engage in some such negativity in pursuit of bias, dislike, self-righteous indulgence or just to show-off their ‘boss-ness’. This of course must be avoided like the plague because, like with the plague, all will be consumed!