You Shouldn’t Fear the Performance Management Assessment


One of the reasons employees dread performance assessments is the fear of stepping on hidden land mines.  Managers who are reluctant or uncomfortable giving negative feedback avoid these discussions by ignoring emails and rushing from meeting to meeting, leaving the employee with a false sense of security.  However, when performance failures finally pop up during the assessment meeting like mid-summer squalls, the climate quickly changes from sunny skies to a storm alert. 

A survey by Aon Consulting and the Society for Human Resources Management reported only 7% of human resources professionals were “very satisfied” with their performance appraisal systems.  Because of this, some companies have abandoned the appraisal process completely, leaving employees in the dark and managers without any standardized performance measurement tool.

Without clear communications of the process and value of performance assessments, employees are left to draw their own, often incorrect, conclusions on the usefulness of why it is being used.  The thought of their manager, peers, co-workers and others picking apart their performance brings apprehension and a lot of questions.   Who will be my raters?  Will the information be kept confidential? Will I be accountable to everyone, or just my manager?   Discussing the performance assessment process and subsequent outcomes in advance helps to remove the employee’s fears and reinforces trust in the manager and the process.  Some points to cover include:

1.         The company’s decision to adopt the performance assessment process
2.         How the assessment benefits the manager and employee
3.         A review of the assessment tool and distribution process
4.         How are others selected to be raters
5.         Maintaining confidentiality throughout the process
6.         Who reviews and processes the assessment data
7.         How the assessment review meeting with the manager will be handled
8.         Who retains copies of the assessment document

From a manager’s perspective, performance assessments take a lot of time to fill out. Meetings with direct reports also take up time during otherwise busy days. and hold employee meetings.   Unfortunately, some managers consider their job complete once the employee’s signature in on the last page.  A performance assessment is a working document – a playbook for the next review period’s interactions.

For the employee, the realization that the performance assessment ends up in a file drawer, never to be seen again until the following year, is the biggest disappointment.  Any trust gained during the process quickly fades away as the months go by without mention of goals or milestones. The employee is responsible for “shaping up” by working on the goals on his own without any feedback from the manager.

To continue the development process and get commitment from the employee, B=be sure the employee understands the "next steps" after the assessment meeting:

1.         Periodic, scheduled follow-up meetings will be a part of the process
2.         There is a mutual commitment to make performance improvement a priority
3.         Communication won’t just be via email, but will include periodic phone and face-to-face meetings
4.         If any changes are necessary, these will be communicated clearly
5.         The ability to renegotiate goals and deadlines because an action plan is a dynamic process
6.         Clearly communicate if any rewards or consequences are attached to goal completion or failure

With this type of commitment, it’s no wonder that there is little or no performance improvement within an organization.    "Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.  If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish,” stated Sam Walton, founder of WalMart. The follow-up process makes the employee and manager a team committed to performance improvement and sends the message that the employee is a valuable asset.


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