Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Reinventing Performance Evaluations: If Conducted Correctly, They Can Help an Organization Adopt a Recovery Focus

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Reinventing Performance Evaluations: If Conducted Correctly, They Can Help an Organization Adopt a Recovery Focus

Article excerpt

Would you rather have a poor performance evaluation or a root canal? Lori would rather have a root canal, and for Bill it's a toss-up! Over the course of our lifetimes we both have received evaluations singing our praises, as well as others that said we needed to straighten up! None of them changed our performance much, especially the negative ones.

Yet performance evaluations can be instruments for positive change, both for individual employees as well as the entire organization, if they are used creatively. Unfortunately, they usually aren't, and we suspect they then have relatively little impact on performance. In some cases, they are executed in the same way that some organizations handle treatment plans, with the employee finding an evaluation upside down on his desk with a sticky note that says "please sign and return."

We can use something as routine as employee performance evaluations to shift an organization's culture toward a recovery orientation. Changing any organization's culture is a daunting task, but since performance evaluations touch every employee (or are supposed to anyway), they can be used at reoccurring intervals to reinforce recovery values and identify ways to put them into practice for every person in the organization. This method of reflecting a value in every aspect of the organization, from the expectations we have of those who use our services to the expectations we hold for ourselves and employees, is the most effective way of instituting organizational change. The more often a value is replicated, the more likely it will be taken seriously.


If an organization is using a standard evaluation form and process, it will probably need to conduct a major overhaul, since most standard forms and processes don't reflect recovery values. Bill recently reviewed an evaluation form used throughout a large academic psychiatric program and while it seemed to cover the usual bases, it didn't reflect the organization's goals and certainly wasn't usable as a tool to reinforce recovery values and practices. While arriving at work on time, completing assignments in a timely manner, emulating neatness and thoroughness, and so on are admirable qualities, are they behaviors that will shift an organization's culture toward a recovery orientation? What's really more important is making sure that the evaluation format and process reflect the organization's values--ideally recovery values.

For example, take the recovery value of self-determination. Once a person using our services has a glimmer of hope that he can recover, he needs support to step into the recovery process and begin to take personal responsibility for his choices, which creates enough momentum to continue the recovery journey. This is self-determination in motion. But the minute a staff member takes over and starts making decisions and setting goals for the person, his recovery process is set back. The staff member becomes the driving force, the owner of the process, which leaves the person in a position of questioning and resisting instead of determining his own course. When we do this to our employees, we are not giving them an opportunity to "step up" in their jobs. We are putting them in a position of resisting and complying, instead of creating and contributing, and subsequently they are less likely to be resourceful and original.

In most of our columns, we've pointed out that forming a meaningful working relationship is key to having a successful outcome with the people we serve. …

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