10 Stupid Ways Managers Screw Up Performance Appraisals

Performance review time isn’t fun and sometimes us managers do things to completely screw it up. I know I’ve screwed up when it comes to performance appraisals, but I’m recovering from it. Learn some of the stupid things managers do to screw up the performance appraisal process – and hopefully don’t repeat these mistakes with your employees!

1. Surprising Employees in Their Performance Review

If your employee is surprised during a performance review you are either not managing them very well or the employee has problems. Your employees should have a general idea of what you think of them before the performance review process begins. The performance review is the time to review their performance from the past year, not unleash an unexpected tirade upon them. I’ve seen this from both sides. I was managing a technical support team and had an underperformer who I thought understand his performance. Instead, he turned in a self evaluation with all “exceeds expectations” when my review of him had several “unsatisfactory” marks. The review did not go well.

One time I had a new boss hired and we had my first review a couple of weeks after he started. I walked in expecting a decent review and instead was told that I had 90 days to turn things around! Fortunately, it turned out to be a problem with him more than me, he was terminated a few weeks after the review.

2. Thinking All Employees & Jobs are the Same

The performance review process is designed to be a cookie cutter method of evaluating all employees and jobs using the same form and techniques. Unfortunately, no two employees or jobs are equal and the performance review process must be flexible enough to adapt to different styles of managers, employees, and functional differences between jobs. So why do we evaluate everyone from the CEO to the receptionist using the same process and tools? Be smart in your next performance review and treat each employee individually.

3. Comparing Employees to Each Other

It’s funny (and sad) how many managers rant on and on about teamwork – even rating it on the performance review form – then proceed to rank and compare employees to one another. You will create a back biting and hostile work environment if you pit employee against employee.

4. Spending More Time on Performance Appraisals Than on Performance Management

Performance appraisals are NOT the same thing as performance management. Very few managers spend enough time and performance management and many invest more time in writing performance reviews than they do in effectively managing performance throughout the year.

5. Using the Performance Review for Blame Instead of Performance Improvement

The purpose of the employee performance review should be to identify areas of strength and weakness for employees and where they can improve to become better workers. Instead, many managers turn it into a blame game and work on identifying all of the problem areas of the employee.

6. Believing They Can Impartially Rate Employees

It’s very difficult to impartially rate your employees – you have biases and opinions formed about each and you should understand and work through those during the performance review process. It’s almost impossible to impartially rate each employee in each area and you should account for that bias in your review.

7. Considering Only Their Own Opinion in an Appraisal

You are not the only one who has an opinion about your employees! Bringing in others that have worked with and for the employee will help you form a complete opinion and properly complete the performance review. Talk to your employee’s internal customers and coworkers before completing the review.

8. Stopping Reviews When It’s Not Tied to a Raise

Many companies tie the performance review into the compensation system. In recent years, some companies have suspended compensation increases for economic reasons and unfortunately, many managers stop performing reviews. The performance review system can be a powerful management tool if performed correctly.

8a. Rating Each Employee Differently, Provide the Same Raise to All

A different compensation problem comes when you rate all of your employees differently, yet provide the same raise to all. For example, most companies have some budget number you must meet for raises – all of your raises must average out to be a 3% increase in payroll. Weak and ineffective managers just give everyone the same raise so as to not hurt feelings. This has a perverse effect on performance as the high performers begin to notice the low performers receive the same raise and you start getting mediocre performance from your entire staff. Get a backbone!

9. Delaying or Canceling Performance Appraisals

I don’t remember the last manager I had which performed performance appraisals on time. ALL of them have delayed performance reviews past the HR deadline. I had one director once who delayed them for 5 months! We all had to receive retroactive pay for our salary increases due to this delay! Perform the reviews on time: delaying or canceling them demonstrates that you do not care about your staff.

10. Focusing on the Trivial

A performance review often covers an entire year and unfortunately many managers focus on recent events or focus on trivial items from an employee’s performance. It’s really easy for a manager to focus on the minor things during a review, it takes a good manager to look at everything in context and properly evaluate a team of employees.

Don’t make these ten mistakes when you’re doing performance reviews. Work on treating each employee as a unique individual and spend time on managing performance throughout the year.

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