Magazine article Management Today

Sitting in Judgment on Others

Magazine article Management Today

Sitting in Judgment on Others

Article excerpt

Now it's your turn to conduct staff appraisals. If you've learnt from your own experience, you'll be well briefed, fair and constructive

A management consultant once asked the American advertising tycoon Bob Jacoby - who built Ted Bates into the world's second-largest advertising agency and often toted a gun - whether or not he carried out formal appraisals with members of his board. 'Guys working for me know what I think of 'em,' cuddly Bob answered. 'If they don't, I make sure they soon stop working for me.'

On another occasion one of the directors grumbled that he wasn't enjoying his work at Bates. Said Jacoby: 'I don't pay you big money to enjoy yourself. You enjoy working here, you should be paying me money.'

Jacoby's sentiments used to be as common as paper-clips. Employees were paid, and they obeyed. If they didn't like it they could scram. Happily, things have changed. Most organisations now undertake regular staff appraisals, at which employees have the opportunity to discuss with their seniors their ambitions and hopes, their strengths and weaknesses, their achievements and their cock-ups. But it is worth remembering how new all this is, and why.

For a start, it isn't something many managers do naturally, of their own accord. They often find appraisals difficult to handle and have to be forced to carry them out. Appraisal systems have become widespread partly as a result of employee legislation, but more particularly because companies have learned that such assessments can work to their advantage. Like many other aspects of free enterprise, appraisals are an excellent example of enlightened self-interest. By helping individuals to improve their performance the company may well improve its collective performance.

Yet despite their obvious benefits, appraisals often go wrong. Either the individual being appraised feels unjustly criticised, and in consequence demotivated. Or - almost as bad - the appraiser leans too far in the opposite direction and fails to communicate problem areas and scope for improvement.

To improve your skill as an appraiser, the best rule is to learn from your own experience. By the time you are called on to carry out appraisals you will probably have been through several of them yourself, at the receiving end. Think about them. Try to recall which were helpful, which were not, and analyse why. The likelihood is that you'll come up with the following guidelines, which should be the keystones of your own appraisal procedure.

First, the person appraising you was thoroughly briefed. Before meeting you they had checked your job specification, previous appraisal reports and achievements, long-term and recent. …

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