9 Deadly Performance Appraisals Mistakes

Performance appraisals don’t always go to plan, being prepared and able to tackle things when they don’t go as planned can make a huge difference.

Problems to avoid:

1. Managers and Employees have Bad experiences of appraisals.

It is important to accept that many people fear and dislike appraisal interviews; it can often be because of bad past experiences when being appraised. Employees often think of appraisals are a stick for Management to beat them with – an opportunity to give them a “telling – off” or to give out extra workload. Appraisals for many people seem threatening and unpleasant. It can seem to employees that their pay-rise and/or job security, depend on performing well in an appraisal. Employees may worry about appraisers who they feel do not like them. Many employees worry about their weaknesses being exposed or about feeling humiliated.

Many managers or HR professionals have also had bad experiences of appraising employees. They may understand it is their job to make changes in people but don’t know how. They may be worried worry about upsetting people and causing arguments. Appraisal interviews have a reputation for being bureaucratic and time consuming and that often make very little difference. Appraisals can seem like a burden and a waste of time to be completed as quickly and painlessly as possible.

2. The Benefits of appraisals aren’t properly explained.

People will only change if they see benefits to changing. Often appraisal systems are introduced without the benefits being made clear. As a result most people participate in appraisals because it is obligatory. They participate but see them as pointless because they cannot see the benefits for themselves.

3. There is a Lack of consultation when appraisals are introduced or remodelled.

When the people involved in delivering an appraisal system are not consulted they can become irrelevant and will cause resistance and resentment. Appraisals will be seen as:

  • A form filling exercise with no real benefit
  • Something introduced by the Personnel Department to justify its existence
  • A way of checking on people
  • A way of demanding more work
  • A way of deciding on salary, wage or bonus levels.

Because employees don’t understand what the questions on the interview form are for, their fears are heightened and they become totally disengaged with the process.

4. Most Managers aren’t trained in appraisal interview techniques.

Many managers have never been trained to conduct effective appraisals. The result is that:

  • Appraisees don’t get motivating feedback necessary to improve commitment and productivity
  • The appraiser doesn’t learn how he/she could manage better
  • The company doesn’t get the information it needs for planning and improving what it does
  • Employees worst fears are reinforced and sometimes this creates more problems.

5. The form is badly designed

Common problems are that the forms are too long and the questions irrelevant. The result is an off-putting, ten-page questionnaire taking much too much time to complete and resulting in a mass of data that is never even analysed.

6. The Employees job description is not clear

Without a sound definitive job description there is no sound starting point for the interview or way of measuring improvements in performance. It is impossible to evaluate someones performance if you don’t know what an appraisee is supposed to be doing. A performance appraisal should be about the improvement and appraisal of the various tasks in the job description.

7. Employees aren’t given useful feedback.

Employees want to know how they did during their interview, most people want to know how they did in relation to others.

  • What were the reoccurring themes?
  • What are the training needs discovered and what training has been planned to address them?
  • What lessons were learned?
  • What changes have been implemented or planned?

Without feedback managers are just reinforcing the idea that appraisals are just box ticking exercises and have no real impact or meaning.

8. Inadequate organisation and monitoring of appraisals.

Quite often there is no one monitoring how the appraisers are progressing. When appraisals are not organised with a realistic deadline the information cannot be transformed into an effective plan. Timing is important. When appraisals are conducted with pay-reviews together with the result that people clam up on things that really matter, or make up whatever they have to, to get a pay-rise.

9. Senior manager are not seen to give appraisals priority

The main reason why appraisals fail is lack of support from the most senior manager. Introducing or re-vamping an appraisal system is often left to the Personnel Department. The Personnel Manager or even the Personnel Secretary often sends out the forms and asks for them to be sent back by the due date. While it may be necessary to delegate the administration of the appraisal system it is a good idea if the initial letter giving deadlines for return of forms are from the most senior manager.

When Performance appraisals go well

When Performance Appraisals are done well they can be one of the most powerful tools for enhancing your employee’s performance and your business’s profits. Avoiding the above nine mistakes can your help your employees to appreciate the benefits of appraisals and improve performance.

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Heather Buckley is Director and co-founder of IT and business training providers Silicon Beach Training. Founded in 1999, Silicon Beach Training run public-scheduled training courses in their Brighton Training Centre as well as bespoke on-site courses worldwide. Popular courses include Social Media Training, Photoshop Training and PRINCE2 Training, which has recently been launched in Birmingham. Heather writes on the Silicon Beach Training blog with a focus on IT, Project Management and Social Media as well as offering Photoshop knowledge from her experience as a photographer.