Why Appraisals fail to impress me!

Why Appraisals fail to impress me!

800 371 Kamal Karanth

It’s that time of the year when we and our bosses remember each other. Not that bosses ever go out of fashion/season.  Our employers force us to get together for a particular ‘activity’ called Appraisals.

As much as we meet our bosses for a variety of reasons throughout the year, some conversations are not to our satisfaction like:

  1. Are you enjoying your job?
  2. Are you learning?
  3. Are we working well together?

These conversations should be happening all through the year, but then they are uncomfortable, unnecessary distractions in our day-to-day transactions. What if the answer to any of the above was in the negative?  We need to solve it and make it work, unnecessary headache, right? If somebody has a problem, they will come and tell us as we all have an ‘open door’ policy ?

So it’s easy to do it once a year when the organisation sets it up with a ‘document’ between us on the table. The very process itself is off putting sometimes as:

  • it happens very close to the deadline (it’s always a rush)
  • it rarely begins on time (after manager postpones it multiple times)
  • your carefully filled appraisal document is read by your manager for the first time right in front of you (so you know how busy she/he is and how important this ‘ritual’ is)
  • It’s a one sided downloading exercise, only one side listens! Under duress at that!

For me, the crucial missing link in any appraisal is the lack of “life” in it. Instead of a riveting discussions between two connected individuals it becomes a highly “administrative” exercise, an exercise of tick vs cross on various predetermined parameters between two strangers acting out a part. Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting a heart to heart, handholding emotional tearjerker where two long lost siblings find each other at the end of the year.

For me appraisals are motivating/insightful exercises where justice is done to the working relationship in alignment with organisational and career goals. My rationale for the loss of “life” is due to the direct link between ratings and increments. We all take the safe zone of making it ‘administrative’ as it’s easier to give a rating of our convenience which is not colored by emotion. Luckily in most of my work life, I have worked in organisations which had no major link between appraisals and increments, so I never felt the pinch.

When I was young appraisals were so much fun. We all used to know each other’s ratings. There was a reason for the new ties, the sharp lipstick and we knew who “gave it back” to the boss! We even used to wait late in the evening for the last of appraisals to get over so that we had a good assimilation/exchange with our peers of our discussions with our bosses.  I feel we never really got to know what really happened within the four walls, nevertheless the narration by each of us was whole lot of fun, hope you guys do enjoy that piece still.

  1. A prepared supervisor discussing on time in a relaxed atmosphere with all distractions off (read phones).  Not ‘on the go’ or on the phone (I know it’s impossible to meet everyone in long distance relationships.  Hey, but why not?
  2. A list and analysis of planned and unplanned achievements and underachievement earmarked as goals of the role by both employee and supervisor.  Focus more on the actions and less on the person (difficult to differentiate).
  3. Quality time spent on development needs met and WIP plus developmental goals for next year (I know that sounds straight out of a text book but is imperative).
  4. Supervisor to highlight the actions or results which need appreciation (the risk of sounding artificial is high here). Unless the intent is to fire the person immediately after the appraisal this is necessary and needs preparation, the employee must have done something right to continue in the organisation.
  5. Feedback to supervisor on things he is doing well (continue) things he needs to start (get better) and actions that he can stop (being a jerk). This has to be sought by the supervisor without fail.
  6. Specific behaviors to be listed for both parties for better experience of the role holder and impact of the role on the organisation for the next year

Too much to ask for?  Last heard it in your MBA Classes? Only true for a virtual read? How can it be anything new?  I’m writing this to remind myself again of how we can impact people whom we work with.

What’s your own expectations from this year’s appraisal discussions? To listen or to retaliate or you just don’t care?

Unable to bring in the real impact of appraisals few organisations have done away with annual performance reviews/appraisals too. The HR there must be thanking their stars!

Take a shot at your appraisal with the right intent, sometimes you may not hit it out, but then there is always the next time.


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