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How do you prepare and do perfomance appraisal?

Pardon my bad english,

I know lots of people (including Joel) are not keen of yearly performance appraisal process, but a lots of us have to do it. My question to the forums is how do you prepare yourself for this process? And how do you do it so the appraisal session (and conclusion) can be as objective and as constructive as possible?

<any answer are welcome, both from the appraiser point of view and the person appraised point of view >

Thanks

P. Gallardo
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Quit.

Fuck that noise!

Mr. Fancypants
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I've done performance appraisals on my employees for the last few years, and one thing has become obvious: performance appraisals aren't useful for identifying areas of improvement and offering constructive criticism.  The atmosphere is too artificial--both you and the employee are aware that the contents of the appraisal will determine a lot, like salary and promotions, and so you're too careful, and the things you bring have a 'special occasion' feeling to them that doesn't make a big difference on day to day operations.

So, think of it as a part of process, like grades in school.  Have a nice, calm, reasonable discussion about the employee's flaws and virtues (make a list beforehand of the points you want to hit), and treat it as a piece of paper that you can refer back to during salary evaluations and disciplinary actions.

Real constructive criticism aimed at improving an employee is only effective when it's constantly offered in small amounts over a long period of time. 

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Do you corporate dickheads ever realise what a load of crap you're living in?

On the ranch
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I'm in the same boat - performance review next week. Personally, I think they're a waste of time but (unfortunately) they're too deeply ingrained in corporate culture these days to be ignored. You've got to smile nicely during the process, exchange pleasantries, and agree on a few artificial targets for the next year.

In all seriousness, the best thing you can bring to the review is evidence that what you have done has added value and as a result you're worthy of a decent pay rise.

TheGeezer
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I'm a big fan of quarterly spot-checks for purposes of career development, with salary appraisals held seperately.  Mixing the two together virtually guarantees that nobody is going to walk out of it happy.

www.ChristopherHawkins.com
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

What's your point, on the ranch?  I said appraisals aren't very useful for guiding a person's career; I didn't say they were useless.  Or are you cynical about the possibility of constructive criticism?

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Appraisals are very important when they are introduced and when they are discontinued, because they signal a new fascinating distraction or imminent layoffs. Meantimes they are part of management's herd management arsenal, like grids, cleaning rosters and firedrills. Hohum.

Google "KPI" or go contracting. <grin>

trollop
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

"Appraisals are very important when they are introduced and when they are discontinued, because they signal a new fascinating distraction or imminent layoffs."

That's precisely what happened to me. Sterling performance appraisals until the "new semi annual appraisal" and then I was laid off.

Another difference is that the annual appraisals were self appraisals, and the new surprise one was completely management driven. etc. etc.

Just remember you're the THE BEST and the company would fall apart without you. You're an expert in everything and while you're always improving, there's nothing extra you need to know to do your job.

Give yourself a 5/5 out of everything if it's a self evaluation.

They'll never know if your manager knocks it down later, but they'll probably use it to determine so many things.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Justin Johnson, I would say they're useless. Look at the way you waltz around them and work out strategies on both sides to handle them. Constructive criticism? Give me a break. More like corporate suck-up.

On the ranch
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Feel free to constructively criticise me. I will promise to meet my performance goals.

On the ranch
Thursday, August 19, 2004

I make sure I don't wash for a few weeks, so that I really stink. This encourages my boss to keep the appraisal short.

Mr Jack
Thursday, August 19, 2004

In most walks of life, what you get depends on what you put in. This applies to performance appraisals. If you've already pre-judged the process before you start, you're not going to get much out of it.

Adrian
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Hmmm lets see.  Formal procedures to govern a process that should be normally taking place anyway are a waste of time.

Is that the consensus?

Or is it that your specialities are too arcane and complicated to be appraised in any way that wouldn't insult your very existence as the oh so professional worker you believe yourself to be.

At the end of a project is it wrong to do a healthcheck?  To discover if it fulfilled the original goals?  To see if there were any changes or lessons learned during the process.  To know whether you had all the tools and skills available to get the project done and that there were no external factors which affected it?

So, to do the same kind of thing, not on a single project but on an individual's work experience and contribution over a year also seems like it might be a good thing?

Appraisals should not be one way.  If an employee finds they didn't have a resource or skill they required during the year then they should pipe up and say, 'I need this, I feel I need a course in that.'  The manager is part of that discourse, there might be budgetary issues but that's his problem, the appraisal should record the requirement even if the requirement can't be met.

I will grant this.  Appraisals in badly run organisations with ill equipped managers can be used as a means of bullying and undermining employees, but then those same organisations are probably doing exactly that every day.

If your appraisal system is based around some points scoring system then yes, I'd find that less than helpful and in that situation I'd keep a parallel record which had the meat of the appraisal and score from that.

One reason for formalising appraisals is to make sure that there is a level playing field, that they don't get used to intimidate or bully employees (or managers come to that), and that all of the local employment laws are observed (equality of opportunity, disabled regulations, discriminationa and so on).

Successful appraisal systems also require employees to appraise their line managers and the performance of their department as they see it.  Appraisal systems that don't include this will be broken.  They may be broken even if they do do this and only pay lip service to it, but it is a minimum requirement for the system to work.

All parties to the appraisal must be aware of its purpose and why its formalised and annual appraisals should not replace ongoing monitoring, mentoring and management.  There is no point having a hands off approach to management and then hoping to wrap it all up in ten minutes with a one page form in pink which gets a score at the end that no one is any the wiser about.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Simon, I think the problem is that the term "performance appraisal" in corporate settings is generally associated with anything but performance appraisal. Without getting personal, that is more or less confirmed by the question that started this thread.

On the ranch
Thursday, August 19, 2004

In poorly run corporations perhaps.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Simon, what planet are you on? Appraisals are viewed as a management, repeat management tool by both managers and resources in the best run corporations.

World leading corps...
Innovating corps...
Paradigm shifting corps...
A/B/C grading corps...
Welching corps.

A synchronised organisational snapshot does nothing for the resources who have to drop everthing to focus on the process. It would be far better, in the project focussed industry this blog services, to grade, reward or fire by project rather than mid April. KPI tango is a toothpaste industry technique dragged in by HR to justify their tiny lives.

trollop
Thursday, August 19, 2004

On the ranch said "Feel free to constructively criticise me. I will promise to meet my performance goals."

My point about appraisals was that the formal nature of them tends to defeat the effect you want.  In general, employees who receive a lot of feedback do better than employees who don't--recognition for doing things right, and being told when they do things wrong so that they can not do those things again.  If you have a good relationship with the employee, you can tell them what they're doing wrong and how they can correct it without being an ass to them.

Or do you think that employees should never receive feedback on how they're doing?

Appraisals do serve a useful purpose: they provide a formal goal to work towards, namely being able to walk in and say "I met my goals, I stopped doing something wrong that I was doing wrong before, and I learned X, Y, and Z technologies."  Maybe you've got a dolt for a manager who doesn't see that you're bullshitting him to get a raise--it certainly happens.  But don't confuse being able to bullshit your boss with being a good employee.

It's like software development:  the ship date is the ship date, and if you don't have one, you probably won't get much done at all.

Justin Johnson
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Well, we do performance appraisals and salary review once a year.  So, I keep an excel spreadsheet of all the nifty stuff I've done since the last review with a short sentence why it's so great and how it benefitted the company.

I also add in personal accomplishments that are appropriate (got another degree, did a cert, whatever).

Then at the bottom, I attach the most advantageous figures I can get from salary.com that are relevant to my job.

Also, get yourself in a non confrontational mind set if possible.  Look at this as an opportunity to remind your boss of how great you are (since he or she is likely to have lost track of everything you do for the company).  Take everything given in the review as constructive criticism (if possible) and feel free to question those things that are out of left field.  After that, I usually tell my boss what my goals are, and try and find out what I need to do to reach them.  If I want a 50% raise, I try and find out what sort of things I need to be doing for the company to value me that much.

So far it has worked really well.  As a matter of fact, my boss has recommended others do the same thing, that way when he has to justify giving someone a large raise to his boss, he has a ready made defense.  Also, if it's obvious that your pay is way below what you should be getting, highlight the fact, but make sure your boss knows that you are happy at the company and have no intention of seeking greener pastures (even if you are).

Performance reviews are like all other forms of selling.  If the product is good, then you just need to give the buyer some nice juicy reasons to justify the purchase to the person sharing the purse strings.  If the product isn't so good, then you have to both change that perception and compete on price in the meantime.

Good luck!

Steve Barbour
Thursday, August 19, 2004

"It's like software development:  the ship date is the ship date, and if you don't have one, you probably won't get much done at all."

Except that studies show that developers without any sort of a schedule acheive more than developers with. Haven't you read Peopleware?

Mr Jack
Thursday, August 19, 2004

The problem with performance reviews where I work is that it stops the regular feedback loop of good job, need to improve on error handling in this code etc.  All of this feedback is now saved up for your review so that there are things to discuss.  It also speaks to the qualaity of our managers who are only too happy to pass on information to your reviewer to give you 'anonymously' instead of directly dealing with problems.  It is not uncommon for me to go to a review to hear that 6 months ago someone reported that I had 'lost focus and spent too much time on refactoring working code'.  By this time I can barely remember why I decided to refactor this code but I'm damn sure that there was a good reason and if I had been questioned about at the time I would have explained why it was necessary.  This sets the review up to be a very negative experience.  I explained this to our HR department and my managers on several occasions but there isn't the political will to change this...

Billy Boy
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Performance reviews are a political dance full of a lot of back patting and then a lot of empty consolation when you get a piddly raise year after year.  The company decided long before reviews happened that nobody is getting a raise because then they'll only make $650M instead of $670M for the year.  It's all a big joke and everybody knows it, in the great majority of cases.  It makes everybody feel like kindergartners and people do not leave a review with a sincerely good feeling, 99% of the time.

muppet
Thursday, August 19, 2004

"The problem with performance reviews where I work is that it stops the regular feedback loop of good job, need to improve on error handling in this code etc."

This is exactly the danger with performance reviews.  The regular feedback loop is much more valuable.

Justin Johnson
Thursday, August 19, 2004

"Except that studies show that developers without any sort of a schedule acheive more than developers with. Haven't you read Peopleware?"

No, I haven't, but I thought the general consensus wasn't that schedules were bad so much as irrational, unrealistic schedules set up by people who don't understand software development.

Justin Johnson
Thursday, August 19, 2004

"No, I haven't, but I thought the general consensus wasn't that schedules were bad so much as irrational, unrealistic schedules set up by people who don't understand software development."

Studies in peopleware showed that:

People with schedules written by managers were least productive.
Then came people who did their own schedules
Then came people who's schedules were done by Systems Analysts
And finally, and most productive, were those without.

Mr Jack
Thursday, August 19, 2004

"I'm in the same boat - performance review next week. Personally, I think they're a waste of time but (unfortunately) they're too deeply ingrained in corporate culture these days to be ignored. You've got to smile nicely during the process, exchange pleasantries, and agree on a few artificial targets for the next year."

Then nothing will change. If you don't believe in it's value then challenge it. Try to enlighten them. You may then stand out, but stand up and be counted, be convinced in your beliefs. If they don't like them? so what. You were true to yourself. And you may just make a difference.

Apathy changes nothing.

gwyn
Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm frequently amused by the amount of people that think management is an inherently bad thing and wonder who they think it is (generally) goes to bat for them.

Of course appraisals are management tools, it would be silly if they weren't, which is this a bad thing?  They're equally tools for the employee.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, August 19, 2004

+++and wonder who they think it is (generally) goes to bat for them.+++

They generally go to bat for you when it's generally in their best interests to do so.  If it's your job or theirs, you're toast.  I fail to see your point.  Management is perceived as bad because in general, a great majority of management is incompetent to be in the business that they're in.  They have MBA's and what have you, and can talk the talk.  Since they're hired by non-technical people to manage technical positions, they're not screened in a competent way.  Consequently, you get business-savvy, business-competent people who are very good at what they're trained in, pure business, and very very bad at addressing the needs and morale of non-business staff.

muppet
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Preapring for performance appraisal consists of a trip to the washroom and emptying all of your precious bolidy fluids and solids.

That way you won't mess up your boss's office.  Dry heaves are always preferable.

hoser
Thursday, August 19, 2004

In general?

How many corporations would you have personal knowledge of then?

Simon Lucy
Thursday, August 19, 2004

muppet:

Do you have any hard data on that?

Jeff Kotula
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Boy I hate to agree with muppet, but performance appraisals in a formal corporate setting are moo poo-poo.

You should be giving appropriate feedback to a person all year long as they do their job. IF you do this, there is no reason at all to do an appraisal. IF you aren't doing this, you suck as a manager.

Muppet is very right in that setting up a good honest performance appraisal, from the managers perspective is hard to do and you have no control over the upper level outcome. In a few companies I've worked in, the appraisal creates stress and doesn't change the fact that raises will come or not. You will get choice assignments or not, none of which is based on an appraisal, but rather how your boss feels about you and what his level of flexibility is.

The absolute worst is managed performance where people are graded on some sort of bell curve. The real world doesn't look like this and forcing people into it is a joke.

Joel has the right idea on performance monitoring and use.

Steve JOnes
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Perhaps the developer and his manager *are* giving each other continuous feedback throughout the year.

Even then, the two of them *still* need to coloborate in creating a performance review document: so that they have this document to submit to the manager's manager and to HR.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Simon, I worry about you. You seem to be a bit of a corporate apologist.

Is that bad? Only if you mean it.

On the ranch
Thursday, August 19, 2004

You asked another poster how many corporations he had experience of. Simon, I've seen hundreds in the course of a consulting career. I feel sorry for most of the drones that are forced to work in them, and contempt for most of the scum that run them.

On the ranch
Thursday, August 19, 2004

What about the brine who cling to their underbellies?

Kalani
Friday, August 20, 2004

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