If you’ve worked at a large company, you’ve probably had to endure a formal job evaluation.
They’re an absolute beating. Almost as bad as a job interview.
You’re tense, sitting before the boss and absorbing criticism about your performance. You nod your head in agreement but inwardly feel powerless and pissed off.
“Yes, I understand,” you say. “I’ll work on those areas.”
Job evaluations wouldn’t be so bad if an open dialogue was encouraged. That hasn’t been my experience.
Instead, it’s one-way street for your boss to find fault with you. The process is worse than a courtroom trial.
In a trial, at least you get to state your case before a judge and jury. You may not prevail, but you have a voice.
In many formal job evaluations, you have no voice. Oh sure, you can fill out a form with your views, but the words may not be read.
Regimented, antagonistic job evaluations are the work of meddling HR people and lawyers, I’m convinced.
They want to have written documentation of alleged poor performance so they can justify firing someone.
OK, I guess I understand that. But what’s the result of having a prosecutorial attitude during a performance evaluation?
A wall goes up between workers and management. Collaboration and the free flow of ideas are stifled. Ironically, performance suffers instead of improves.
Naturally, workers should be evaluated and held accountable for their performance. They should be fired if they don’t meet expectations.
But there’s a more humane, effective way of communicating criticism. How about the manager pulling a worker aside and having an informal conversation?
“Hey, you’re not doing so well in this area,” he or she could say. “ I’d like to see some improvement.”
And – now this is a radical idea – why not allow the worker to respond honestly? There could be a valid reason why the worker isn’t performing up to par. The organization could benefit from this type of nonthreatening exchange.
I’m reminded of the interaction between a parent and child. If the parent has a sit-down with the kid and chews him out – then doesn’t allow him to respond – resentment builds and the relationship suffers.
Why can’t companies understand this same dynamic exists in the workplace?
I’m not alone in crying foul on the formalized job evaluation process.
Here’s an excellent article from BusinessKnowHow.com. It’s written by Anna Johnson, an employment consultant and author.
“Many managers handle performance appraisals quite poorly,” she says. “And the result is not only an unpleasant meeting, but one where the manager and his or her staff never quite understand each other, never quite appreciate the other’s point of view, and never quite settle on appropriate goals for the coming year.”
Johnson lists five common mistakes managers make in evaluating employees. They include only giving feedback during a formal appraisal and not encouraging employee input at a review.
“These meetings are supposed to be interactive – where the manager doesn’t simply relay his or her own appraisal of the employee’s performance during the year, but also listens to the employee’s viewpoint,” she writes.
Is corporate American listening?
Most workers, I think, want to do a good job and are open to constructive criticism. But they don’t want to be treated like a child. They don’t want to get a whipping and be told to shut up.
If you’re a manager, put some thought into how you conduct job evaluations. There may be a better way that fosters teamwork and produces improved performance, without causing resentment.