Thursday, May 15, 2008

Performance Evaluations Can be Like Playing Strip Poker -- Only You're Blindfolded

I'd like to meet just one person who came out of performance evaluation saying, "Gee, that was a swell experience. Can't wait to do it again next year!"

Managers hate performance evaluations. Employees hate performance evaluations. They stare at each other across a table and try and remember all the Oprah shows that talked about how to read body language.

But what it comes down to is this: The employee is supposed to bare his/her soul, so to speak, while the manager tries to look wise and supportive and doesn't let on what he or she is really thinking.

It's sort of like someone asking you to play strip poker, only you have to wear a blindfold. The boss has all the advantages. The employee is forced to bare all, but never even gets a glimpse at what the manager might be thinking.

So, I think it's time we evened the playing field a little bit. Got rid of the blindfolds, and made performance evaluations -- if not enjoyable -- at least a bit more enjoyable. (And no, I'm not talking about taking off any clothes. That was an analogy, OK?)

Some rules for performance appraisals that should be enacted by Congress immediately include:

* No surprises. Every employee should have a pretty good idea of the areas where they're not living up to expectations, because the manager has been saying so for some time. At the same time, the employee should have an even better idea of what improvements need to be made.

* Walk the talk. No manager should be allowed to be late in performing an evaluation. Employees get in trouble for being late with stuff -- the same should be true for a manager. Further, no manager should be allowed to be sarcastic, belittling, grumpy or unprofessional with an employee during an evaluation. Managers should be evaluated on how well they handled the process. Paula, Randy and Simon from American Idol could serve as judges for manager evaluation performance.
Randy: "Dog, that was hot!"
Paula: "Oohh...wonderful, fantastic. I also liked the second evaluation the best. What? There was no second evaluation?"
Simon: "Sounded a bit karaoke to me."

* No sticks allowed. The evaluation process should be a chance for the manager to provide some inspiration to the employee, to emphasize how his or her performance is really important to the bottom line. Employees who come out of the process re-energized and recommitted to their jobs should be the norm, not the exception.

Ever have a bad experience in a performance evaluation? How should the process be changed? Please share your thoughts.


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George Krueger said...

Fun post, Anita! Fully agree with "no surprises". If performance is deficient, it should be addressed along the way, not once a year. Evaluations should be the time to build on success, not failure!

Anita said...

Thanks! I think the performance should be a roadmap of the coming year, not a land mine to maim unsuspecting employees.

Andres V Acosta said...

I must just be lucky or something, because I've rarely had a performance review that wasn't helpful. I love feedback!

Anita said...

Well, I think you're an inspiration to a lot of us who look at it as a way to put us down, not inspire us. Maybe we just need to think about it another way. Thanks for your insight.

Dan McCarthy said...

Anita -
"Like playing strip poker only blindfolded"?! I love it! I can't wait for the next opportunity to use that at our next HR meeting.

Evil HR Lady recently had a reader ask for ideas on how to make performance appraisals “fun”. It must have hit a nerve, because it generated 31 comments!. Here's mine:
I think performance appraisals are already fun. Some of my other fun hobbies include root canals, going to funerals, annual physicals, long staff meetings, downsizing, watching those commercials in movie theaters, and malaria.
But here’s 10 ways to make them even funner:
2.Make the form longer
3.Insist everything be measurable
4.Do a forced distribution of ratings
5.Do them all at once within a few days
6.Conduct an adverse impact analysis
7.Invite the EEOC in for an audit
8.Automate the process with SAP
9.Form a committee on how to improve them
10. Implement a multi-rater process - more fun for everyone!

Anita said...

You forgot your secondary hobbies of bee stings, splinters under the fingernail and poison ivy. :)
I don't know why changes haven't been made in the way performance evaluations are done...sort of like politics...everyone complains about it, but nothing ever really changes. What will it take, I wonder, to truly make companies do things differently?