Performance Appraisals – Open Letters From A Manager and Employee

There are many companies that have found a wonderful performance appraisal system while others continue to review systems to match their corporate culture. To all those companies that found a great fit, I say bravo. To those who are still looking, take a deep breath.

Imagine for a moment if you could say what you truly feel about performance appraisals as a manager or an employee without fear of words coming back to haunt you, without fear of retaliation, without fear of being sued, and without fear of being rejected or ostracized. I can hear John Lennon singing the chorus below from the song “Imagine”….

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

For those who don’t know who John Lennon was….Google the Beatles and listen to the song because the words inspire us to dream of a time where living together in peace can be achieved if we only believe. By now you must be thinking, “So enough of the trip down memory lane you HR dreamer.” Yeah, you are right. What was I thinking?

As a career coach, I’ve had the privilege of training new employees who accepted their first supervisor/manager role. Those new supervisors were eager to show those previous crappy supervisors they worked for, how to do things the right way. Lo and behold, it’s time to conduct the first performance appraisal and when the new supervisor returned for our follow-up coaching session, I saw the

dazed look some develop after leaving that employee appraisal session.

Imagine (now you see my cleaver pun) what the world could be like if we had 5 minutes to say what we feel in the appraisal session…without fear. Imagine if a manager wrote a letter to the employee…..

Dear Employee,

I think you are a terrific worker but I just read your peer reviews and now I’m wondering what happened over the past year? Also, I wish I could tell you that the statement you made during the interdepartmental meeting about 4 months ago possibly hurt your chances for promotions because some of the other Managers think you are a hot head even though I know you were just having a bad day. You are usually cordial, upbeat and positive and I appreciate that about you. Now those same Managers have expressed concerns during our pre-performance appraisal meetings that we have with HR and I am not going to be able to place you in the SuperDuperExcellent category to be considered for the 2% salary pool increase. Heck, you barely wrote any accomplishments on your self-evaluation; yet, I know you worked overtime to cover your work and some of your co-workers’ projects. I don’t remember everything you did this past year but it’s up to you to remember. I going to help you be better and hope you can get a raise next year. Sincerely, Your Manger.

Now imagine if the employee wrote a letter to the manager….

Dear Manager,

I appreciate my job and how you took time to explain my duties during the first week of employment. I’m curious, why did it take 6 months before we had another meeting about my job description and to let me know what I was doing wrong? Now it’s time for my performance appraisal and I don’t know what the categories really mean. My co-workers told me there is a “SuperDuperExcellent” rating but that’s for someone who is a Rock Star! What is a Rock Star? I wanted to tell you that I was drowning in some of my duties but I overheard you “yell” at another new employee that “it should only take six months to learn your job.” This is a cool place to work. So I’ll just keep quiet because I heard rumors that if you speak up too much you may be viewed as a troublemaker and it will be placed in your performance appraisal hurting your chances for promotions. Sincerely, Your Employee

Misunderstandings and knee jerk reactions over performance appraisals never help anyone. Today, my goal is not to tell you which appraisal systems are the best. Today, I just want to leave you with thoughts for further discussion and let you know you are not alone.

Imagine, as the manager, if you:

1) Took time to ask all new employees during the first 30 days of employment what worked well, or didn’t work well in their previous performance reviews? Would it provide insight that could be useful for supervising that employee for the next year and allow you to lay the ground work to implement your company’s performance appraisal so that it is not a surprise?

2) Ask the new employee during the 90th day of employment to place their job duties into the performance review categories so that you could check their understanding of the job description? Would this allow you as a manager to re-set job expectations so it’s not a surprise a year later at the performance appraisal meeting?

Imagine, as the employee, if you:

1) Live as if there are no stupid questions during the first 90 days of employment. Confirm the expectations of the job duties listed on paper vs. those job duties that fall under “other duties as assigned” so that you can determine what effects the overall ratings in your performance appraisal?

Employers and Employees unite. If you want a partner who can help you tap into a better corporate culture that leads to a better appraisal system then sing along with me……..

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
(call us at hr-haven)
And the world will be as one