Annual Performance Appraisals Often Create Negative Employees. Is There a Solution?

Annual Performance Appraisals

Annual Performance Appraisals are dreaded by both managers and employees. Despite many years of company efforts to write appraisals fairly and succinctly, Annual Performance Reviews are hated. The end result is negativity by both employees and managers. Employees ignore their appraisals and focus on anticipated pay increases and promotions while Managers generally ignore many of the pertinent details needed for the appraisals and spends most of their time filling in the blanks of each employee’s appraisal form.

Is there a solution for overcoming the hated annual performance appraisal? There is and it’s a fairly simple solution that results in greater employee participation and increases the probability of both improved performance and manager appreciation.

This article presents the problem and the best possible related solution. And, better yet, the solution to the dreaded annual performance appraisal has positive results that enhance the needs of today’s employees who want to actively participate in their job roles.

Annual Performance Appraisals: No one likes them or has ever liked them

Annual Performance Appraisals are dreaded by both managers who must create them and employees who must endure listening to them. No one likes them, yet companies continue with a process that’s been around since the Industrial Revolution. Over the years, Performance Appraisals have had minor changes, such as Management by Objectives and corporate strategies aligned with individual’s performance, with little effect.

Managers and their employees seldom agree on most things, but they do agree that annual performance appraisals are generally unfair, embarrassing, and result in negativity by the employee receiving the appraisal. In a nutshell, managers dread preparing and documenting performance data and employees dread hearing and reading it, unless it’s all positive, which seldom happens.

What is the Objective of an Annual Performance Appraisal?

Performance Appraisals have become much more important in the US since the implementation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1966 and 1970 Equal Employee Opportunity Commission Guidelines created a need for improved company appraisals by exerting strong pressures on companies to formalize, validate and organize appraisal systems.

This ‘’pressure to improve’’ company performance appraisals resulted in managers being required to provide extensive performance details to each of their employees, include valid written data on each employee and discuss with each employee, both the positive and negative aspects of their performance.

Additionally, annual performance appraisals required ‘’achievable and challenging’’ goals and objectives for the coming year.

The reality of an Annual Performance Appraisal

Is it any wonder that most managers rank Annual Performance Appraisals as one of their ‘’least enjoyable’’ tasks? And, even worse, most managers seldom document performance and fail to routinely communicate performance (good or bad) until the final yearly Performance Review.

Most often, employees spend the year ‘’guessing’’ whether their manager believes them to be superior, common, or inferior. Like most humans, employees make assumptions if they are not given data or information regarding any topic. And, performance appraisals are an easy target for assumptions. Many employees assume they are doing a great job if no one tells them and become upset if their assumptions were incorrect. Otherwise, or, even worse, employees assume their manager thinks they are a common or inferior employee because the manager does nothing to encourage ‘’the good’’ and discourage ‘’the bad’’ of everyday work.

The result of managers failing to provide every employee with on-going evaluations of their performance is employee negativity. Even worse, employees eventually move into an uncaring attitude and ignore the annual appraisal because it appears irrelevant after months of work and being ignored by their manager.

A possible solution?

Employees need to know how they are doing. They need to know what they are doing correctly and what areas need to be improved. That’s human nature.

For many years, we have ignored these elements of human nature. Gradually, employees developed uncaring attitudes and learned to ‘’impress the boss’’ right before their annual performance reviews. Currently, most employees are more focused on pay increases and promotions normally attached to the appraisals and generally ignore the contents of the appraisal.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution: create on-going appraisals, often called ‘’check-ins.’’ Employees and their manager simply meet 1×1 to discuss current happenings at least once a month. They discuss specific details regarding job duties, performance and expectations.

Each check-in meeting should result in a mutual agreement on actual performance, expected future performance, needed future changes and needed assistance for successful performance for the next period. The current year’s performance should be discussed with questions and comments from both employee and manager.

A few negatives and a lot of positives

Few managers have time for all of their current duties, much less spend time and effort on monthly employee 1x1s, so, why not ask employees to set up the meetings?

Doing this reversal of a simple task from manager to employee results in employees becoming more responsible for their performance and sends a strong message that employees are to guide their manager in understanding specific details on individual employee job duties, performance and expectations.

In reality, employees should have the burden of providing data of their work and should be expected to provide in-depth details of their tasks, duties, projects worked on and the progress of each.

A manager does not have time and usually has only general knowledge of these details. Few managers have in-depth knowledge of every detail of an employee’s tasks. Discussions and input, suggestions and setting expectations for the next cycle are much more important to employees than micro management.

Employees can easily provide details and answer questions regarding their work, results and performance. The Manager simply agrees or disagrees on results to date, reviews needed changes and discusses ideas and challenges before establishing an action plan for the future.Notes are made and documented in each employee’s file for future reference.

The key factor for success in this method is cross communication between an employee and their manager and mutual understanding and agreement on future performance.

The results? Employees quickly understand that their manager has sincere interest in each employee, wants their input and values their opinions. Employees are much more appreciative and are more likely to provide extra effort and make suggestions for improvements.

Your company continues to require an annual performance review?

If you company wants to continue having annual performance reviews, that fine. No need to panic when it’s time for the annual review.

Your needed data is complete because you have monthly details of each employee’s performance. Since employees have been guiding the monthly check-ins, it’s also beneficial to ask employees to draft their own annual performance review and schedule a meeting with their managers.

Once the draft of the annual performance appraisal is completed by the employee, it’s simply a matter of discussing with the manager. The goal of this project is a mutually agreed upon discussion between employee and manager.

After hearing the employee’s opinions on the annual performance review, the manager provides any additional input, adjusts and adds details on future performance expectations, goals and objectives for the coming year. The final appraisal is complete once the employee makes necessary changes to the appraisal.

It’s done! And, it required much less manager effort than the routine annual performance appraisal process. And, the best part? The manager and employees have developed positive relationships while ensuring performance expectations. Employees now experience control of their careers, learn effective communication and documentation skills and look to their manager for guidance. The manager is no longer the ‘’bad guy’’ but the ‘’leader’’ who is available to discuss employee issues and provide advice.