Tag Archives: performance feedback

Meaningful Feedback

Morgan was perplexed, “Okay, so if I set the form aside. And if I buy into the conversation-is-the-relationship, where do I start?”

“Morgan, let’s go back to purpose. What is the purpose of the performance review in the first place?” I asked.

Morgan held his head in both hands, thinking. So many misconceptions abound on the purpose of a performance review that he was temporarily paralyzed. Finally, he spoke. “The performance review should provide feedback to the team member on their performance.” He stopped, still confused. “But isn’t that what we have been doing all along?”

“Let me change a couple of words in your definition,” I replied. “The performance review should provide meaningful feedback to the team member for the purpose of improving their performance. The feedback has to be meaningful and for the purpose of changing their current behavior to more effective behavior.”

Most current performance appraisal systems provide feedback that is not meaningful and do very little to change behavior.

What is a 2?

Morgan handed me a stack of the files which contained copies of previous performance reviews.

“I see here that you are using a 1-5 Likert scale with 1 = poor and 5 = exceeds expectations.” Morgan nodded. I continued, “Scanning down the list, I see that you have tons of 3s and only an occasional 2 or a 4, never a 1 or a 5.”

“That’s easy to understand,” said Morgan. “We don’t have to explain a score of 3. If we rate a 2 or a 4, we have to provide a written explanation. And even if someone deserves a 5, we never give it, because then they might ask for a raise.”

“And, tell me again, what is the purpose of this review?”

“Well, our HR person says that if we have to fire someone, we need to have a bunch of 1s and 2s in the file. Something about avoiding wrongful termination.”

“Morgan, have you ever been up against a plaintiff attorney in court?”

“Not really,” Morgan replied.

“Morgan, have you ever had to explain to an attorney exactly what a 2 means?”

“Not really.”

“Morgan, with all due respect, this little form is not going to get you very far in a wrongful termination suit. There has to be a better purpose for this performance review process.”