Tag Archives: performance review

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.

Team Member Never Wins

Morgan was hanging with me. He had never considered the conversation-as-relationship in the dynamics between the team member and the manager. We had been working on his performance review process.

“Morgan, it’s not the form from the office supply store. It is the conversation. In fact, think about the form. The form actually works against the conversation. It summarizes the complexities of human behavior into numbers.”

Morgan mounted a defense. “That’s why we have the person rate themselves first and then the manager. That way, if they disagree, the two have something to talk about.”

“Morgan, it is a game of tit for tat. A game. What happens when the manager wins the game?”

“Well, the lower the score, the easier it is to justify a lower adjustment to compensation.”

“And if the team member wins the game?”

Morgan stoppped. At first he wasn’t sure. Finally, he replied, “The team member never wins the game. It’s not how it’s played.”

So, in the long run, what impact does this process have on performance. Is there a better conversation that should be happening between the team member and the manager?

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.”