Anger and Performance Feedback

Today’s organizations engage in practices that damage and destroy employee motivation and creativity.  The most lethal practice of all in terms of motivational slaughter is the typical performance evaluation which focuses on:

●the employee’s mistakes in the performance of the job; and

●the employee’s weaknesses.

Traditional management philosophy teaches managers to manage by exception which means to focus on problems and put out fires.  This results in an emphasis on the negative rather than on the positive.   It also encourages the ignoring of good, steady un-dramatic, reliable performance.  Employees are not appreciated for their accomplishments and for preventing problems.  All the emphasis is on putting out fires, problem-solving and covering shortcomings.

On the one hand, employees want to know how they are doing.  On the other hand, whatever performance feedback system an organization utilizes, its results have only led to anger, rage, discontent, distress, distrust, suspicion, cynicism, lawsuits and de-motivation.  In fact, many well known authorities such as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters and Edwards Deming have totally condemned the practice. “The system by which merit is appraised and rewarded is the most powerful inhibitor to quality and productivity in the Western World.  It nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork and encourages rivalry, and leaves people bitter.”

Undoubtedly there is not a more hated ritual at work than delivering and receiving performance feedback.  An appraisal actually tells you more about the appraiser than it does about the employee.  An appraisal tells you:

●how harsh a critic the boss is;

●how good a job she expected the employee to do;

●how well the two of them get along; and

●about the basic values they share.

Here are some of the major problems with conventional performance appraisal practice which cause employee rage.

●Judging people on a one – five or poor-marginal-satisfactory-good-very good- excellent rating system cannot possible tell the whole story of your 12 months of solid effort. In addition, such systems only appear to be objective.  In fact, they are totally subjective.

●receiving a rating of excellent followed by a 2.3% raise is an insult

●Comparing your results  with those of another’s is unfair.  (One employee may be very experienced while you are new.  What is difficult for one person may be easy for you.  Therefore, when a boss says something like, “Why can’t you do it like Francine?” it will cause valid rage.)

●Your manager may use the performance appraisal for suddenly declaring his or her expectations for the year just past.  (“You should have been doing dogs instead of cats.”  “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  “Because I thought you could figure it out for yourself.”)

●Your manager may be unaware of all the extra things you are doing.  (If you are very good at your job, the boss probably ignores you and spends most of his or her time looking after the sluggards, the screw-ups and the wing nuts in the department.

●The unspoken rule seems to be: find something to criticize because that’s the purpose of the performance feedback activity. (If you are really excellent at what you do, your performance feedback might contain such critically important items as “keeps a messy desk, is often 2 or 3 minutes late from lunch.”)

●Discussions about performance do not occur often enough to allow for keeping up-to-date with changes in the marketplace, the organization’s current focus, or the environment in which the work is being done. That nmleaves you, the employee,  working on items which do not matter any more.

●Although the connection between compensation, promotion, and performance is clear in your mind, the organization’s administrative systems continually try to obscure that connection with nonsensical explanations.  The talk is about pay for performance but everyone gets the identical raise – even the screw-ups.  Promotions are made on the basis of performance excellence but somehow only go to those who have been around the longest.


The performance evaluation system has too many other considerations

mixed up with it that have no business being there.  The result is that ratings are rarely an honest reflection of the actual situation. Bosses play favorites; they try to hide the information regarding who is getting what; they blame corporate for insisting that all you can have for your outstanding effort is 2.3%.

In the performance evaluation praise is used to help you accept criticism (“You did a great job on elephant but the project was three days late.”) This makes you feel set up, manipulated and oh so angry.

      ●Appraisal systems often do not include multi-person participation in obtaining superior results.  In today’s work-world, no individual accomplishes anything by operating exclusively on their own.  Work is a collaborative effort. However, often one person gets the credit for the results of many.  (How much hostility is generated when one employee is designated as employee of the month?)

To protect yourself, keep a notebook in which you record every extra responsibility or project you take on.  Note your successes every day.  In this way, you have data to present to the boss when performance appraisal time comes around.  In addition, ask often for feedback from the boss concerning your performance so you are always working on timely (priority) issues.  This will ensure you are clear on the boss’s expectations.  Always make notes on what the boss tells you and read them back to him or her to insure full and complete understanding.

In order to prevent that old 2.3% raise for excellent work, about three months before your scheduled performance appraisal discussion, go see the boss and ask, “How am I doing?”  Hopefully the boss will say, “Just great!  I’m really pleased with your performance.”  Then, you can respond, “Good. Then I can expect a solid raise of at least 10%, right?”

It doesn’t really matter what the boss says in response, you have planted the seed that a 2.3% raise is not going to be sufficient.  That’s all you have to do.  From my experience with people using this strategy, what happens is the person gets 8% along with an apology that it was not possible for the boss to get more.

The work relationship between you and your boss should be a partnership.  If that relationship is to be successful, both of you must gain support for your respective goals from it.   You are assisting your boss to achieve the organization’s goals, making him or her look good while at the same time augmenting your own skill set and career objectives.  That is why you must insist on talking about what it is you want from your job in terms of helping you prepare for the future you want.  There is no better time for such a discussion than the performance feedback discussion.

Remember that focusing on the past (mistakes and problems) is about examining things you cannot change.  You want your boss to focus on your future and how you want this job to prepare you for your next job.

With all the downsizing, right-sizing, re-engineering and other assorted euphemisms, for cutting staff, you must realize that you have to be your own career coach. My advice is, don’t get angry, take control!

A normal working person will spend eleven thousand days of their life between the ages of 21 and 65 at work.  That is a staggering amount of time to spend at one single activity in an organization that evidences a decided lack of concern for your personal goals.  As an astute employee, you have to encourage your immediate boss to have a personal stake in your career.  Your boss needs to know that your career success helps him or her to build their own success as a manager because, truthfully, your boss will only succeed if you do.

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