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Performance Appraisals

Adiran Wrote:
I suspect (a good appraisal) is quite rare. I've also had appraisals where I got the feeling that the person giving the appraisal didn't really take it seriously. There was no thought given to my appraisal before we sat down to do it, I didn't have time to prepare anything, etc.

I think it's a culture thing.  In many software companies (or IT Departments), the value of the appraisal is never really sold.  So, it's just one more thing to pencil-whip "or else we can't get merit increases."

Anything that is done "just to do it" isn't going to have real value - witness XML, MBO, TQM, Six Sigma, ISO 9000, or even, as we have so recently discussed, MBA degrees for people who just want to make money. :-)

Yet I think we would agree that real opportunities to have feedback do have value - just as XML could have some value if used right, TQM can be useful if used right, etc, etc.

The question is "do I need a performance appraisal to do it?" because without the appraisal, so few managers would actually keep accurate notes and provide feedback?

Well, I'd submit that a mandated performance appraisal isn't really any better, because it's just going to get pencil-whipped anyway. :-)



Matt H.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Again I assert that performance appraisals are for the non-performers <laughing>


PAs can be used to show "trends" of non-performance, assuming that PAs are written honestly.  Most aren't - showing everybody as a performer, which sometimes happens ironically because the "trending" capability is known.  Some managers just can't handle conflict or confrontation very well.  But they can be an additional source of backup in the event of a suit over a firing or a disciplinary action.

In one company, the PAs I did (once a year) were mandated to be "balanced".  What this translated into was for every good there had to be an offsetting bad... and vice versa.  Sure, it made PAs a real joke... and we even had a mandated training class for the official company way to give the PA to the employee.  We affectionately called it the "SH*T Filled Twinkie" method.

We also tried the separation of PA from salary management, but it wound up in futility.  First of all, it didn't make logical sense since we did salary management based on performance (yeah, there are other ways but I don't wanna think about them).  Maybe having the salary management exercise one month after the PA exercise had something to do with not being able to disconnect them.

Depending mainly on the type of "manager" you are or have, most performers will know where they stand and they will know you understand their performance.

On one four plus year project I didn't do any "formal" performance reviews, and no one really missed them.  I had already eliminated the non-performers.

What I find sometimes missing in the formal review process is the evaluation of performance against an objective standard.  No, I am not talking MBO (or TQM which is yet another MBO rename)... because those aren't really objective to individual performance or individual capabilities.

Sure, there are job descriptions and the like for positions, but I find most managers, especially the non-techie manager evaluating on a relative scale - sort of like the existing best IS THE best - grading on a curve as it were.  This can cause problems across units - I was always seen as "harder" to the evaluations of my "softer" peers.  But then again, I had the performers in my group and they usually didn't.

So... in a round-about way, my answer to your question is No, you do not need a formal performance appraisal process to effectively manage or lead people.  But you do have to be managing or leading them.

Joe AA.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Read this, Matt:

Helen Collins
Thursday, June 27, 2002


The article makes so much sense, and I wholeheartedly agree with Joe AA when he says "appraisals are only applicable to employees who do not care" (or something like that stated elsewhere).

Obviously, it makes sense to hire only employees that care.  That would be the first line tactic.  However, assuming some underacheivers make it through the door, what is the corrective action?  Do you give them the same increase that a competent employee gets?

Nat Ersoz
Thursday, June 27, 2002

Nat... I believe that salary management should be done on an individual basis.  A competent employee is one that meets the standard, an underachiever does not.  I could have stars, competents and underachievers at various different job levels. 

It would not be correct to treat the differences in performance and contribution as no difference in salary actions.  I didn't say "fair", I said correct.  IMHO, any salary action has to be earned - not an entitlement, not a right, and not something awarded to an underachiever at the expense of taking it from the star.

The competents were awarded at middle of the road, and better increases were provided to my stars.  Those were easy. 

The underachievers were more difficult.  Some were trying their best, had growth and potential.  Others didn't try at all but believed they were "deserving".  Sometimes I gave none... where none was appropriate. 

Sometimes I wished I could give negative increases.

Joe AA.
Friday, June 28, 2002


OK, so how do you rate an employee for increase if you don't have a review?

Nat Ersoz
Friday, June 28, 2002

It might be enlightening to hear how others have had worthless reviews.

My most entertaining was from a company where no one was allowed to recieve the highest rating.  The same company required the supervisor to put something negative in the review.  My boss could not think of anything bad to write about me, so he wrote that I sometimes used intimidation to persuade others.  (This came about from a discussion I had with a fool where I told him to think through his machine control logic, and he would find he had a safety problem.  He did.)

My best friend under this boss liked to joke with others.  He was told that "he toyed with others".

To not receive the highest rating when I deserved it, and to have a trumped up negative item in the review was insulting.

A. Coward
Friday, June 28, 2002


Fred also wrote a follow-up article to that.

titled "Now What? What to Do After Scrapping Your Company's Performance Appraisal System"

Helen Collins
Saturday, June 29, 2002

I think that annual performance approvals are a good thing, from both the employee and the managerial perspective, and this is why.

They give both parties a chance to sit down and talk about what has happened over the year, and plan for next year. (What tools are we going to be using? What things should you start learning for the next year? What training did you use last year? What training do you want next year? What new skills have your learned? What goals do you wish to accomplish over the next year?)
They give both sides a chance to align their interests, and look at longer term solutions. (Have you spend the six months of the last year firefighting problems?
You can review what has happened and will happen with your projects, and look at solutions to longer term problems.
Match job descriptions (and pay categories in larger companies) with what you are actually doing.

But and however many managers do them incorrectly and set them up so that they are failures by not planning them (You should know everything that is going to be talked about in the meeting before hand), by setting unrealistic goals for the next year, by setting pay raises to them (makes the employee feel nervous and worried) and by dismissing the process.

A good performance appraisals tells both the employee and the manger a lot, and should be done, but only if it is done correctly, other wise it is a waste of time and money.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

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