Why Have Some Experts Suggested Performance Appraisals Be Abolished?
There's actually two ways of interpreting this question:
What case do performance appraisal abolitionist make to support their contention that appraisals should be abolished?
Why have the formed those conclusions, and have they mislead themselves?
Let's tackle the first one here, and we'll do the second on another page.
The "Abolish Performance Appraisals" Case
With many things human, there's often so much conflicting evidence, even conflict research that in the end, conclusions can be based on one's own bias and personal experiences, but let's look at the rationales put forth to scrap performance appraisals.
First, it's important to note that abolitionists define performance appraisals as annual reviews, something done once a year, then usually forgotten, rather than our definition, which is that appraisals and reviews are a PART of a performance management system.
So, remembering that abolitionists take a very narrow view of performance appraisal, here are some of the arguments.
- It can't possibly improve future performance because it's just looking backwards not forwards.
- The metrics used to evaluate are poor, and imperfect.
- Nobody likes them, so they must be bad.
- Once a year without additional communication is pointless.
- There's no evidence that it actually brings a return on investment to justify the costs in terms of time (wasted).
Susan Heathfield summarizes some of the objections to ONCE A YEAR reviews:
It is harmful to performance development; damages work place trust, undermines harmony and fails to encourage personal best performance. Furthermore, it underutilizes the talents of HR professionals and managers and forever limits their ability to contribute to true performance improvement within your organization.
To her credit, she makes the critical distinction between performance management, and performance appraisal, and understands that performance appraisal meetings will still occur as one component of a performance management system.
W.E.Deming, often cited to support abolishment because he included appraisals in his seven deadly sins, suggested that focusing on individual performance is futile since at least 80% of variation in outputs is a result of the system, not the individual. (ed. Note that it's unclear whether Deming was talking about a once a year appraisal or a feedback system working continuously all year)
Are These Criticisms Valid?
Some are, some aren't, and some are sometimes valid and sometimes not. The real problem is that there are serious, legitimate reasons why companies aren't about to give up their performance review systems, and their are also good reasons why it's useful to have a formal review process at least once a year.
The critics say: It doesn't work, so get rid of it, without realizing that it DOES work if it is PART of an overall performance management system.
Besides, it's interesting to see that many of the critics want to abolish this "failed process", then, sometimes in the next chapter or paragraph, suggest an almost identical process to replace it, but call it something different.
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- It's 2013, not 1945 and it's time to lose the industrial mindset and use management tools for THIS century. Here's ten steps to improvement.