Tag Archives: issues

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.

Thursday Special

Last Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Trudy and Jim Donavan and their kids moved into a sparsely developed…….

This true story was resolved in a very creative way.  Trudy consulted a realtor and put that neighbor’s house on the market.  When the realtor showed up at their door and told the neighbors how much their home was worth,  hey could not believe their property had appreciated that much in 25 years.  Mom looked at dad and dad looked at mom.  Dad said, “With that kind of money, I could retire immediately.”  Mom said, “We could travel.”  Both agreed that all the kids were old enough to be on their own.

They put the house on the market and within three months Trudy and Jim Donavan had new really nice neighbors.

Scenario #2

You have a neighbor whose yard looks like a garbage dump……..


This true story was resolved when the health department was asked to get involved.  These neighbors were given three weeks to get the place cleaned up or face a very heavy fine which, if they neglected to pay, would result in a lien being put on their property by the town.


Scenario #3

Your neighbor has serious drinking problem………..


This true story was resolved through the justice system.  The neighbor with the drinking problem found himself being sued for both property damage and vehicular endangerment.  The court ordered him into a nine month rehabilitation facility and revoked his driver’s license for one year to begin after he completed his rehab.  He also had to pay for all the repairs of the property damage and the medical bills for the son.



This Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Abacus Software develops specialized software programs for individual companies.  Greg Howard, one of the software developers, has been working with an investment firm to develop a very complicated program designed to track various investment products.  The policy of Abacus Software is to accept changes and revisions from the clients up to the moment when the developer begins his work. Greg believes and has been assured by his boss that he has full authority and responsibility to interact with the client from concept to product delivery.  He is to make all the decisions relating to the project along the way.

Greg’s client calls every day with new ideas he wants incorporated into the software package making it impossible for Greg to get the project off his desk.  Following company policy, Greg accepted the first several changes and then told the client that since he had started on the development, no more changes would be accepted.

The client then went to Greg’s boss and pleated his case for more changes.  Greg’s boss, Weldon Deutsch told Greg that this was a valuable client and therefore an exception should be made for him.  Now Greg is unsure about the company’s policy and how it is applied.  Moreover, now, because he told the client “No more changes” and must now reverse himself on accepting those changes, he feels like a fool in the face of the client and depressed over the fact that his authority was nothing but a mirage.

If you were Greg, what would you do?

Scenario #2

It is a cold, dark Monday morning in November.  An icy mix is falling making the roads slippery and dangerous. Spencer Sportsman phones his boss and tells him it is much too dangerous for him to drive so he will not be coming in to work today.  Sam then calls his good buddy Howe Hunter and says, “Why don’t we go duck hunting today?” The men agree to meet at some specified location fifty miles away braving the dangerous roads to sit  with cold, wet feet in a freezing wet duck blind in the sleeting rain by the lake waiting for hours to shoot at some poor defenseless ducks.

Why is Spencer Sportsman putting so much more energy into his recreational activities than he does into his work?  Why is he so eager to put his body into such physically uncomfortable and dangerous situations when his work would never demand anything similar? 

Scenario #3

A high tech medical laboratory was experiencing a steady growth rate of 23% per year.  It was obvious that their present facility would not be able to contain the staff needed to sustain that growth in the coming year.  The lab’s management made a decision to buy and refurbish an existing building rather than build a new facility.  When an appropriate building was located, it was sixty miles away from the original site.

Management made the decision to split the work force; some departments would remain in the old location and others would be moved into the new quarters sixty miles away.  The employees had been told a new facility was in the works.  What they had not been told was that the new facility was 60 miles away and that half the departments would be going to the new location, half remaining at the original location.

The Vice President of Operations had already determined which departments would remain at the old location and which would move to the new location.  However, he refused to provide that information to the staff. He believed that as soon as the announcement was made, his office would be flooded with complaints by people who were dissatisfied with the decision.

On a Monday, one week before the new facility was to open,  each employee received an E-mail which stated what departments were staying and which were moving.  By Friday noon, the Vice President of Operations received 1,941 resignations from a total work force of 3,610.  “I knew this would happen,” he said.  “People really do hate change and it doesn’t make one bit of difference whether you tell them up front or at the last minute.”  What do you think?”  Was the Vice President of Operations correct in his assessment?

DeAnne’s Anger Tips

The longer a conflict goes unaddressed and unresolved the more difficult it is to resolve. When situations are left to simmer too long, the parties become polarized. Resolution then is nearly impossible. The use of a third party – a mediator – may be necessary to find a resolution.  It is always best to confront issues early on when both parties are still thinking clearly and unemotionally.

Consider how many divorces could be avoided if the parties involved would voice their dissatisfactions when they occur instead of holding them inside for years until only a lawyer can sort them out.

Fighting When Neither Party Is Wrong

Most people would rather have a root canal than attempt to resolve a conflict. In fact, instead of going through the tough work of routing out the real issue and figuring out how to confront the offending party, most people will say, “Oh, it’s just a personality conflict.”   It is never just a personality conflict. That’s an excuse.

Every person brings to each situation unique information gleaned from his or her experience, perceptions, values and goals. In any situation that involves more than one person, therefore, there are bound to be differences of opinion. Therefore, the potential for conflict exists. The conflict is not due to personality differences but because the people involved are at odds over one or more of the following items.  They :

●think differently,

●are relying on a different body of personal experience,

●are missing a vital piece of information;

●are using different sources of information,

●perceive things differently, and

●have different goals.

Let’s look in on a badly matched married couple. Sarah is a second generation American whose family practiced extreme frugality in order to provide the bare basics. Alex’s family has deep roots in the American culture, and, as a child, he never wanted for anything.  When Sarah shops, she purchases the cheapest cuts of meat; when Alex does the shopping, he buys the most expensive cuts. Sarah makes wonderful meals from leftovers. Alex hates leftovers, even when disguised as a creative casserole. When mechanical items break down, Alex throws out the broken item and replaces it with a new one. Sarah will take the broken item to be fixed. She tells him, “It’s important to save for a rainy day.  You never know what might happen”.  Alex tells Sarah, “Life is short. We only go this way once. We should enjoy all that our money can do for us right now.” Sarah thinks Alex is wasteful and reckless. Alex thinks Sarah is anal and compulsive.

Instead of acting as if the other is totally wrong, this couple should explore the reasons why each looks at the world from such a different perspective.  Based on their different perspectives, neither person is wrong;   both positions have merit. Both should seek input from a marriage counselor to find a middle ground.

Here is a work example. Suppose you are the Manager of the Design Department and your opponent is the Manager of the Accounting Department. Your goals are about designing the best, most efficient, edge-of-technology, gizmos in the market place. Your opponent’s goals are concerned with keeping the costs of manufacturing down so that the price of the gizmos is competitive in the marketplace.

You have designed a new, fantastic gizmo model. Retooling to accommodate your new design will be far more expensive than just continuing to produce last year’s standard model gizmo.  However, producing last year’s standard gizmo model renders your department unnecessary.  You might therefore conclude that the Accounting Manager dislikes you personally and is devising clever ways to get rid of you.  You might also assume that you are focusing on the future  in order to keep the company ahead of the technological curve while the Accounting  Manager is just an old fuddy duddy who wants to hang on to old ways of doing things.

Neither assessment is true. What you have here is a simple conflict over goals. It is not personal.  Moreover,  it requires that those at a higher level from both of you determine what the company should produce and bring to the marketplace in the coming year – a brand new model gizmo or more of the older model.

In this example, let’s suppose you are missing a critical piece of information. The CFO told the Accounting Manager that manufacturing expenses had to be trimmed 12 percent in the coming year. The estimated increase for retooling the manufacturing process to accommodate your new model gizmo is 16 percent. This would result in the Accounting Manager having to trim 38 percent from the manufacturing costs.  It would be impossible for him to do that. Therefore, in order to accomplish his goal of trimming 12 percent from manufacturing costs, the Accounting Manager feels forced to avoid incurring any additional manufacturing costs, including those for retooling.  Therefore, he feels forced to take a position against your new design.

Whatever the other person is doing may make no sense to you, but it does make sense to them. Therefore, you must ask yourself, “What piece of information am I missing which, if I had it, would help me understand what my opponent is attempting to accomplish?”  

Suppose, for example, a couple has a young child with a huge nose. Devaney, the mother, wants the child to undergo corrective surgery immediately. Shawn, the father, believes it would be better to wait until the child is older and can better tolerate the operation.  During her childhood, Devaney was severely teased because she was much taller than any of her classmates.  When she remembers her grade school years, the pain of the teasing comes back to her full force.  She doesn’t want her child to go through what she went through.  It could, she believes, scar him for life.  Shawn, on the other hand, was never taunted during his early school years.  Therefore, he is certain that his child will be able to successfully ignore any teasing.  Therefore, he does not want the surgery now.

This is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. Both positions have merit. What needs to happen here is, instead of arguing, these parents need to share where their views of the situation come from.  Both need to acknowledge that each wants the best for their child.  Next, they need to consult the child’s doctor about the age and surgery-tolerance issue.  Finally, they need to examine their child’s reaction to being teased. The child’s history – not the parents’ history- should determine when and/or if such corrective surgery needs to take place now.

The key to managing conflict is to focus on the issues, not on the personalities or people involved. “What do you want as an outcome or result of the proposed action?” might be a good question to ask to clarity goals.  You want to reconcile different ideas, sources of information, experiences and perceptions so that mutually and in partnership you can move ahead.

Here are other another examples.  Barbara believes that her husband Ralph ought to spend some quality time with the children each night.  Ralph thinks that quality time refers to the weekend when he’s not so tired and out of sorts.  Barbara and Shawn decide to consult their Pastor and learn that using Sundays for family activities is just as powerful for building decent, moral, respectful and well-adjusted  kids as taking time with them in the evenings when everyone maybe tired and out of sorts.

Ralph wants to research replacement windows on the internet and in magazines such as Consumer Reports.  Barbara wants to accomplish this task more quickly.  She wants to go with the recommendation of the window expert at the Home Depot.  Once again, neither person is wrong; both positions have merit.  The couple resolved this issue by consulting a building contractor who, from his experience, was able to help them select the right replacement windows for their needs.

Your co-worker thinks your project should be accomplished one way and you believe some other way is better.  Your co-worker’s information came from a seasoned, experienced employee while yours came from the department manager who is relatively new to the organization.  Maybe your facts and information are identical but, being different individuals, you have interpreted the facts differently. Once again, we have a conflict where neither party is wrong; both positions have merit.  You both decide to approach the General Manager to gain some clarity on the situation.

In resolving a conflict with a neighbor, Barbara wants to get advice from a lawyer relative and perhaps sue the neighbor.  Ralph wants to speak with the local police department.  He thinks this is a one-time problem.  He believes that a little chat with the authorities might be all that is necessary to solve the problem.  Once again, neither person is wrong; both positions have merit.  The couple decides to approach the neighbor, share their concerns and see how he responds before deciding on other measures.

At work, a very familiar conflict may occur over values – about what is right and fair versus what is what is wrong and unacceptable. You may feel that in order to complete the project on time some margin for error is permissible. Your co-worker may believe that one should strive for a no-error, quality result and if that makes the project late, so be it.  If you try to resolve this difference on your own, there will very likely be terms flying around which will not forward the problem solving effort. These will be terms such as slipshod, compulsive, shoddy, obsessive, careless, task-oriented, expedient, over-zealous, irresponsible, inflexible, and incompetent. Once again, neither person is wrong; both positions have merit.  Only the boss can resolve the issue.  Go see the boss and find out what she wants: on-time with errors or perfection and lateness.

The resolution to these issues is relatively simple:

●first – recognize that both positions have merit.

●second – assert that neither of you is wrong.

●third – together select a person at a higher level of knowledge than either of you to help clarify the issue  (a boss or an expert on the topic).

To sum up, with these types of issues, it is not possible to find resolution at your level. You will waste time and energy trying. In addition, you will only create more hostility. The reason is, neither of you is wrong.  Both of you are working in a fog created by a lack of crucial, specific information.