Employment Today September 99 issue back to articles menu
"The Dreaded Review Part I"
The Scene: A busy, bustling office. The GM is going over her plans for the day. She calls in her PA. "Steve, have the managers done their Performance Reviews yet?" "All except one Nicks still dragging the chain as usual. Ive reminded him three times." "Hmm. Make an appointment for me this afternoon with him, will you?"
Later that day "So, tell me, Nick, whats the problem with your Reviews? I note Steves reminded you several times. Youre way overdue " "Um, Im just too busy!" he said, somewhat evasively. "Performance Reviews are an essential management function, Nick. You know as well as I do that you get your result through the efforts of your team. If youre too busy to motivate them, objectively evaluate their performance and help set objectives then we need to have a look at how youre managing your time. If theres trouble later with one of your team, youre making us vulnerable in the event of a personal grievance". Nick shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "er, well its not just the time thing. I, um, actually hate doing them, if you want the truth" "Is that why theyre still not done is that why youre always late with them?" "More or less", he said. "What is it that you dislike about doing Reviews, Nick?" There was a long silence. Nick looked out the window. "We do need to talk about it you know. This cant go on. We need to fix it. Come on, talk to me. Spill the beans". "Honestly?" "Honestly". "No come-back if I tell the truth?" "None, unless youre doing something illegal " And out it came. "Its the whole process. It sucks. I hated them being done on me and now I have to do it to others. Two terrified people sit in a room for 20 minutes, I tell them what I think and circle some numbers on a form (give me a break, how do you justify the difference between a three and a four?) - I ask them if theres anything they want like, do you wanna go on any training courses or anything, then I ask them if theres anything else they want to say. They never do they just sit there like stuffed dummies except Glenn, he always uses the opportunity to tell me everything Ive done wrong and then asks for a raise and, and, thats another thing I hate they know that their salary increase if there is one is hooked to a good appraisal. So I have to justify every darned criticism. I hate it, and so do they." There was a few moments silence. "Im not surprised they hate it, if it happens the way you described it", the GM said. "Nick, have you been shown how to do an appraisal?" "Er, no, not like on a training course or something. I just do what my boss used to do", said Nick.
"OK, lets talk it through and see if I can change the way you think about the Review process. Firstly let me say that the numbering system needs to go youre right, its hard to justify and there is a tendency to avoid extreme low or high scores because that indicates either a need for performance counselling, or perfection at the other end. So on a scale of 1 5, theres a natural tendency to stick to 2 4, the safe ground being a 3. Hence you get mediocre review scores. And yes, were making moves to separate the Review process from salary. The Performance Review determines how well youre doing your job. The Salary Review is a commercial negotiation that determines how much their job is worth, when its done well. We will change the system, but for now were stuck with it. Now, what preparation do your team get to do before the Review?" Nick looked puzzled. "What do you mean?" he said. "I dont tell them until the day before, so as to reduce the anxiety factor. No point in stressing them for days beforehand."
"Nick, youre missing an opportunity to make the job easier and more rewarding. Your team need some time to think and not during work time either about their job, the organisation, their career, and how they feel about the job you do for them. Youll need to help, by giving them some questions to answer. Let me try some on you as an example:
Nick thought for a moment. "You mean give them those questions before the Review?" he asked. "Yes at least a week before, and make sure theres a weekend in there too so they can think away from work, and maybe even talk about it with their partners at home. They may need to ask you some questions in the meantime, too. You see, those questions are totally open questions youre not guiding them in any way as to what to say. It means when they come to the meeting, they already know the spirit of what youre going to be talking about, and the ones who care will have some thoughts and some questions. So you can lead off the review by discussing those things together youve already got something to talk about. No need for terrified silence." Nick thought for a moment, frowning. "But what about the ones who dont care?" he said.
"If you think you can motivate everyone on this planet, youll get a flat head from banging it against a wall. You have to be realistic. The sad fact is that some people come to work only to get money and as long as they perform their tasks well, you cant have any issue with that. So there will be cynics who no matter how good you are- will view the whole thing as a charade, a chore, a ritual dance that must be endured and then forgotten. If you can swing 90% of your team around to look forward to Performance Reviews, youve done well, so dont grieve over the 10%. Over time, you might win them over too. The 90% will help too, by cross-infection of enthusiasm."
"Ive still got to judge them sooner or later - all were doing is dancing around the tough bit" said Nick. "Yes, you do have to do some judging -as you put it. But get your head around the fact that it is their performance youre judging. Youre commenting on behaviours and outcomes not the person themselves. Try and imagine that you could see those behaviours and outcomes during the meeting, as if they were on the table in front of you, and that youre both studying them in order to see where things could be improved so that both of you get more out of the process. Its their Review, not yours - youve got to make them own it." "Their Review?" said Nick. "But its me thats judging their performance. How can it be their Review?"
"Nick, it looks like you and I need to talk this through more. Theres a lot more I need to tell you and Ive run out of time. Why not give those five questions to your team so they have time to think, and you and I will meet tomorrow and Ill take you on to the next bit."
"Is this a training session?" said Nick. The GM smiled. "Just like you, its part of my job. Its called Performance Review you and I are in the middle of an informal one. Youll see later that its a continuous process. The actual meetings are just the visible, formal way-points on an on-going journey."
(see next issue for what happens next and more tips on Performance Review)
Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Steve Punter 1999 All rights reserved by the author email@example.com back to articles menu