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2 Reasons Why Your Performance Appraisal May Not Really Be About You

My sister worked for a company that was about to be sold to an investor.  She called me in a panic.  Her performance appraisal was scheduled and she was nervous they were about to fire her right before the sale.  I assured her the request to schedule a performance appraisal was to provide the new buyer with evidence about the performance of the current employees.  I was sure the buyer merely wanted to have some evidence about how effective they were and if they could support the change in ownership.

The next day she called to tell me I was right.  Her original fears were unfounded.  Her performance review was excellent and met all her expectations.  Clearly the seller (my sister’s current employer) wanted to convince the buyer the people were excellent.

Was that performance appraisal really about her or about the sale?  Most performance appraisals are not really about the people but instead about some other motivation or intended outcome.  This is so unfortunate because the latest research shows that people are hungry for feedback, especially millennials. According to Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of employees indicated that “My performance and possibilities for success in my career would have increased substantially if I had been given more feedback.” (Folkman, 2014)

The typical appraisal will likely include things such as a bias, a manipulation, poor leadership, justification for a raise or bonus, justification for a firing, and justification for a promotion or a demotion.   Aren’t performance appraisals supposed to be about improving the performance of the individual?  If so, why would leaders misuse the policy for their own selfish motivations?

The typical performance appraisal process is a failure and there are numerous reasons why. Here are the main two basic reasons:

  1. The basic assumptions behind the current appraisal are flawed
  2. The appraisal process is most often manipulated to justify some motivation other than its original purpose e.g. justifying a raise (or bonus) to keep a high performer happy or justifying the firing of a poor performer.

The main assumption of the current appraisal process is that improving the quality of the people will improve the organizational performance.  This describes our desire to analyze the parts of a whole in order to understand the whole.  This is inconsistent with systems thinking.  Leaders must embrace systems thinking to achieve predictable organization improvement. Most organizations continue to practice the Frederick Taylor method of management which is really a “command and control” approach.  The typical appraisal is a tool of the command and control and Frederick Taylor Scientific Management approach. (Caramela, 2018)

Most leaders now assume that poor organizational performance is rooted in poor employee performance.  Although many have revised their performance management process, a large majority of organizations still conduct the typical performance appraisal process or something very similar.  The typical performance appraisal process is merely a dysfunctional yet sophisticated form of blame.  Its assumptions are:

  • Individuals have control over the results of their work and the factors that allow them to achieve their goals. This is false.  There are always many factors that contribute to the success of a goal.
  • Managers can evaluate individual performance separate from the contributions of others and the influence of the work tools, environment etc. This is false.  Managers cannot separate their bias (either positive or negative) from their evaluation.

Both of these assumptions are inconsistent with systems thinking.  A systems thinking assumption is, “the quality of the interactions between employees (and departments) is more important for improvement of the organization than improving the quality of the people.”  In other words, you can’t separate the evaluation of the person from the quality of the interactions that person has with their co-workers and the working environment.  If this is true one must conclude that the typical appraisal doesn’t evaluate the individual.  It evaluates the interactions.  It is not about the person it’s about the interactions of that person in that particular environment.

Leaders often manipulate the appraisal process to serve their own purposes.  Just as with my sister, the owner manipulated the process to make all employees “look good” so the new buyer would be impressed.  This compromised the opportunity to receive real feedback for improvement.  It compromised the truth.

Leaders very often will compromise the process to achieve some short term goal.  The appraisal then becomes more about achieving the goal and less about the person receiving the appraisal.

That performance appraisal with your name on it is really NOT about you.  It is really about how you are able to interact with others, environmental factors outside of your control, and about the intentions of the manager conducting it.  Good luck trying to learn something that will help your development!

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review: https://www.c-suitetv.com/video/best-seller-tv-wally-hauck-stop-the-leadership-malpractice/

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

For more, read on: https://c-suitenetwork.com/advisors/advisor/wally-hauck/


Caramela, S. (2018, February 13). Management Theory of Frederick Taylor. Retrieved from Business.com: https://www.business.com/articles/management-theory-of-frederick-taylor/

Folkman, J. Z. (2014). Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give. Harvard Business Review.

Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP
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