Performance Planning and Review: Making Employee Appraisals Work

By Richard Rudman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
THE CHALLENGE OF
PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

Few people look forward to the annual performance appraisal interview. Managers don't like being put in the role of judge. Employees don't like being evaluated. So performance appraisals get done because the system requires it. We often hear complaints like this—especially where employees' performance is being assessed in isolation from the organisation's business and operating objectives. Or where performance appraisal is a once-a-year event which neither managers nor employees see as a positive contributor to working relationships or work performance.

Complaints like this lead to calls for performance appraisal to be abandoned or abolished. For example, the grand old man of quality management, W. Edwards Deming, once described performance appraisal as a 'deadly disease' (Deming 1986) and Professor Clive Fletcher suggested in the early 1990s that appraisal might be 'an idea whose time had gone' (Fletcher 1993a).

The critics have some things in common. First, they assert that performance appraisals fail to achieve their stated objectives and thus serve no useful purpose. But they don't examine why this is so. Second, they condemn the performance appraisal practices of some organisations as succeeding only in demoralising and demotivating their employees, and then generalise from these examples. Next, they cite examples of organisations which have done away with appraisals—but then gone on to replace them with performance planning or employee development planning or other processes that mirror the practices of many organisations that are firmly committeed to their performance management systems. Fourth, the critics find it difficult to suggest how organisations might direct and assess what their employees do without using some form of performance management. It's easy to take the negative case if you don't have to suggest an alternative.

On the other side of the argument are people like Tom Peters—one of the authors of the ground-breaking In Search of Excellence— who argues that 'dynamic employee evaluation is more critical than ever' in

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