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Performance Appraisals: Questions for Smarties and Dummies
By Marcia Zidle

Summary: Some frequently asked questions about performance appraisals, and answers to those questions. Includes material for HR professionals and line managers.

In numerous programs I?ve conducted on performance appraisals, with Human Resource people (who are responsible for developing and implementing programs) and with line managers (who actually conduct the reviews) are often foggy about performance appraisal procedures. Here are some frequently asked questions.

Questions asked by HRD Professionals:

1. What are the essential ingredients of an effective performance appraisal program?

A successful program must meet the following requirements:

  • It fits the organization, rather than ?one size fits all?.
  • It must be communicated to all involved.
  • It must be sold to those who will conduct the appraisals.
  • It provides training and ongoing resources to managers.
  • It establishes controls and rewards to reinforce implementation.

2. Can I use other?s forms and procedures or must I develop a whole new program?

You certainly can see what other organizations are doing in relation to performance appraisals. However, I say adapt appropriately not adopt totally. What works for a large financial institution may not work in a family owned business. Use other programs as a guide, not a boilerplate. Get input from your line managers as well as employees regarding forms and procedures ? they are the ones who ultimately will be the users.

3. Why do managers generally dislike performance appraisal programs?

Many managers are not convinced that the program is a good one or that positive results will be gained. Also, they are not properly trained to conduct the reviews. They hesitate to e honest for fear that subordinates will resent them and believe the review will be an unpleasant experience that might cause more harm than good. (This may be right if the program has not been properly planned and implemented.)

4 How much training is required and how should it be done?

Training must include three factors: basic HR information, performance appraisal skills and motivation to implement the program. Ideally it should be done in multiple sessions spread out over a period of time with small groups for proper discussion and practice. Some of the key topics could be how to clarify what?s expected; how to conduct an effective review; how to rate fairly, etc.

Questions asked by Line Managers:

1. Why do most subordinates dislike performance appraisals?

Because it is often an unpleasant experience! Some common problems cited are:

  • Expectations and outcomes are not clear.
  • Fear to disagree with the boss and that it will be held against them.
  • Criticism is used more often than praise.
  • Bosses are defensive when challenged by subordinates.
  • Bosses aren?t prepared.

2. How can I be sure I?m making a fair appraisal?

First of all, ask for input from others who are in a position to evaluate the performance of the person. Next, be sure that neither the ?halo effect? (a positive opinion of the individual) not the ?horns effect? (a negative opinion of the person) influences the appraisal. Also be sure that the appraisal is not based just on the most recent events.

3. How can I get the person involved so I?m not doing all the talking?

To encourage dialogue during the review, you can ask such questions as: What went well this past year? What problems did you encounter? What are some key goals for the coming year? What areas do you want to improve or develop? How can I best help you to achieve these goals?

4. How should I end the review particularly if the person is not doing a good job?Always end on a positive note. First, thank the person for some specific good work done the past year. By recognizing achievements you create the motivation to achieve even more. Then move on to the area that needs improvement. Say something like, ?I?m glad we had a chance to talk about your performance and how we can work together to improve it. I?m sure that together we can achieve positive results.?

Don?t just appraise but raise performance.

Marcia Zidle, the ?people smarts? coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job ? to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to and get the bonus report ?61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers?. Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks ? resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs ? fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.


About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.


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