One of the first questions I ask when I start working with a new client is, “Are you using performance appraisals well, and how does performance management work in your organization?” I guess that’s more than one question, isn’t it?
Once in a while I hear that performance management is working well, that appraisals are written and discussed, and that there’s a benefit to the dialogue. As I said, that’s once in a while. Unfortunately, too often there are cobwebs in the system.
A few years ago, when I was working for a community organization, I asked a similar question. I got answers like, “Oh yeah, we do them. I have my form.” When I asked what was learned from the performance review discussion, I received dark stares. As I probed deeper, Shannon, a brave employee, told me, “The CEO takes a pen and just draws a line down the page and marks every standard as excellent.” I thought, now that’s scary!
I found what Shannon told me incredible, so I asked Thomas, the CEO, about it. He confirmed that it was true. “What,” I asked, “was the purpose of having performance appraisals?” Thomas told me that the board of directors asks about performance appraisals, so he does them. He said it’s simple – he uses the form that he inherited and just fills it out and puts it in each employee’s file. He didn’t even plan on discussing them. Oh my! There are some serious skeletons hanging out in that organization’s closet!
As I started talking more with Thomas, I found out he “just didn’t have time” to write appraisals. Hearing that made me batty. Still, he told me all about his direct reports. What each employee was doing well, and what each had trouble managing. He talked for a long time and in great detail. I returned to my office and I wrote drafts for him. Neither one of us realized it, but we were starting a process that lasted over a decade. Every year, I would ask Thomas questions, and he would answer. In the end he would have a draft performance appraisal for each of his direct reports. Someone told me that I was “ghost writing” but I wasn’t really; I was just capturing and organizing his thoughts.
As a result of our work together, Thomas’ senior leadership team has had performance appraisals for the past 11 years. They discuss their goals, accomplishments, and challenges with Thomas at least once a year. The courageous conversations are happening. And, as you would guess, once Thomas started, it spread throughout the organization. The culture of the organization shifted.
If the words, “performance management” are just words, it’s time to take action.
Do you find the performance appraisal process in your organization to be helpful? Do you learn from it?
Performance appraisals can be either a trick or a treat. I hope yours will be both sweet and helpful.
I know you wouldn’t steal your company’s computer. You know the one I mean. The one your employer bought for you that you store everything on and haul back and forth to the office. Fortunately, MY readers don’t steal. They are honest folks.
And of course, in 2018, most of us realize that many of us are being paid for our brain power. Some people do actually perform tasks and produce goods that are tangible, but most of us write, read, talk, organize, email, prioritize, and distribute. Most of us are paid for the knowledge we hold and convey. So, all I am asking you is, “Are you mostly productive?”
This is a gentle reminder that while you are texting, Snapchatting, Instagramming, and Facebooking, unless you are contributing to the social media for your organization, you are sort of stealing.
I am frequently asked about software that monitors how much time employees spend surfing the net, or are otherwise disengaged. I ask, “Who’s going to monitor the employee monitoring system?”
If you wouldn’t steal a computer, then don’t lose track of the time your employer is paying you for. It’s just a simple reminder.
Are you mostly productive?
I heard him as I was walking down the hall, “I can’t believe you screwed that up! You are so incompetent! Now I will need to stay late! Aarrgghh!”
As I entered the cubicle area, I saw him ride his broom into his office just as he slammed the door. (Okay, so I made the broom part up.)
I looked around to see if everyone else was horrified. They were not. While there was no way that anyone in the vicinity could have missed hearing the yelling, no one looked up from their desk or rushed out of their office. In fact, it was just the opposite. Everyone pretended to be doing their work so they wouldn’t be next in line for screaming and bullying. Yes, being yelled at like that is bullying.
The next week, I was at a different company and the executive director was furious. Her face was red and she was pounding the table at her monthly staff meeting. She shouted, “I am the executive director! I don’t need to put up with this!” I knew from working in this organization that everyone had heard that rant more than once before. Even I had heard it more than once.
It’s interesting. Most organizations have policies that state that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. When lower-level employees are unpleasant or harsh, they are often counseled or reprimanded, but when the IT guy who understands the legacy database starts screaming, no one does a thing. Why? “We can’t afford to lose him,” I hear when I ask.
Well, I hear it sometimes. A few great organizations say, “We need the IT expert, but we aren’t going to tolerate demeaning behavior.” When that happened in one organization I worked with, we met with the IT expert and set up a performance plan and a coaching plan. In six months, her behavior improved…a lot! And not only did her work behavior improve, but so did her home life. We are not different people at home and at work. When we become approachable and less volatile at work, that same behavior spills into our home, and vice versa.
Elizabeth Jeffries in her new book, What Exceptional Executives Need to Know states that “What You Permit, You Promote.” Whoa! When I read that, I thought, “How True!”
What does your organization permit that needs to stop? Let me know — I am interested in hearing.