Garbage In, Garbage Out

Performance review season can be messy. Managers and employees get squeamish, and the appraisal process itself can be clunky and time-consuming. Everyone wants to get back to work, but the review becomes a necessary evil that everyone has to slog through.

Managers can make this process even more unbearable. In fact, we’ve got 10 ways managers spoil performance appraisals:
1.     Seeing the process as a distraction.Managers forget that in addition to meeting sales goals or improving financial performance, they need to actually manage their people regularly. If you’re doing it right, reviews are an opportunity to realign everyone to the company’s goals, not a distracting ordeal. If the manager sees reviews as a distraction, so will everyone else.
2.     Not taking reviews seriously.When managers simply go through the motions with performance, employees aren’t going to be invested in the process. Why should employees try if managers aren’t even taking the time to accurately assess performance?
3.     Reviewing everyone as “exceeds expectations.” If everyone is the same, there’s no reason to go above and beyond. Managers should understand that making everyone exceptional often means putting high performance and low performance on the same level.
4.     Over-promising and under-delivering.Rewards and bonuses rarely happen, and forget about the 3 percent cost-of-living raise. Managers who really have no control over compensation rewards shouldn’t promise them. HR rewards managers can provide direction on what recognition programs are being used when financial rewards are off the table.
5.     Making performance management a one-time event. Bad managers starve employees of feedback all year and then hope that the appraisal process provides enough nourishment to get employees through the next year. Good managers are continuously aligning employees to goals and giving feedback along the way.
6.     Using their own “system” for reviews.When companies roll out a new performance appraisal process, it’s easier to use what’s familiar than to learn what’s new. By not using the same process across the company, managers may be depriving employees of accurate measurement, rewards opportunities and promotion prospects in other departments.
7.     Making an example out of employees. While it’s good to learn from mistakes, managers shouldn’t deliberately call out employees for mistakes in front of the department or company. Innovative company cultures include room for failure, so managers need to find better ways to help teams learn without throwing an employee under the bus.
8.     Using popularity as an objective measure.Gut instinct is frequently used to support decisions, but without objective measures, performance suddenly becomes more focused on whether a manager likes the employee. If performance is based on popularity, then no one will ever want to be the “unpopular guy” focused on getting things done.
9.     Removing anonymity from 360-reviews.The reason 360s work is because you get honest feedback. If there’s no anonymity, people will hunt down whoever said, “Sally’s so process-oriented, she’s inflexible.” Removing anonymity means people will provide vague and useless feedback, depriving employees of actionable advice for improvement.  
10.  Not communicating performance expectations. At the end of the day, performance appraisals help ensure that everyone knows what they need to be working on. An employee should be able to walk into the review knowing how he’s been doing and what’s expected for the next year. If it’s a surprise that he’s been failing, the manager hasn’t been communicating expectations along the way or didn’t set them up to begin with.

These are things that can ruin a performance review as well as day-to-day productivity. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

In order to really get the most from their employees, managers should see performance management as an opportunity to enhance productivity and add to the bottom line. Schedule regular check-ins, take the review process seriously, and use the tools that are available. Managers who have teams that excel will have a good review with their supervisor, too.