The phone rings it’s Will. In a hushed tone he tells me: “Mike, our CEO went to an off-site executive development retreat and wants to change our entire performance appraisal system and he wants it done by the end of the next week!”

I ask, “any guidelines on how he wants things changed?”

Will, “He said he wants clearer objective metrics. I have no f@#$ing clue what that means.”

Me, “Neither do I…be there in 30 minutes”

What is wrong with performance appraisals Create Learning team building and leadership

What’s wrong with performance appraisals?

Every company seeks an alchemic formula that can turn a poor into a good and a good into a great performer. This happens with blind ignorance of the systemic messages being sent and how they contradict with the expectations.

Walking into the entrance of a manufacturing plant, I saw a large banner that read: “TEAM Together Everyone Achieves More.” Fifteen minutes before I saw this banner the operations & human resources managers were telling me about their individual incentive program to increase output.

This contradiction of language and practice happens across all kind of jobs.

Think about your work. What bromides are posted across the walls, and in your performance review, BUT the how the work gets done and the reward system are different.

False Assumptions & Cynical Beliefs About People & Work
  • Evaluation will improve a person’s performance.
  • The person being evaluated had control over the results.
  • The person’s individual contributions can be separated from the contributions of the system other managers and people in the system.
  • All work with seemingly identical equipment, materials, training, job descriptions, etc… are identical.
  • The standards of evaluation are related to factors demonstrably important to the business and customers.
  • The standards are reasonable and achievable.
  • Each system in which the person works is stable and capable of delivering the expected results.
  • The evaluation covers performance over the entire cycle of the evaluation (12 months-yearly or different), not just the period that can be remembered best by management.
  • All evaluators are consistent with each other.
  • Each evaluator is consistent from one employee to the next.

The above assumptions are seldom true.

OK it is broken what else can I do?

Personally I find myself wavering between just fill out the form and be done with it … to STOP performance appraisals all together. There is a better way.

Here are some ideas:


What works for your team and you when it comes to performance appraisals? Does your company still use them? What areas of contradiction do you find in your work?

Referenced: The false assumptions are from “The Leader’s Handbook” Peter Scholtes