by Paul Kiser
I have worked many years in Human Resources and at one time my job was to help managers write employee job standards and performance evaluation tools. I would like to now publicly apologize for playing a role in the dark side of management.
HR people can give you dozens of reasons why employee evaluations are absolutely necessary. You need to give the employee feedback, you need to let the employee know your expectations, evaluations are documentation of the employee performance, documentation is needed for disciplinary actions, blah, blah, blah, blah…it’s all BS. Here are four myths about employee evaluations:
Myth #1: Employees need periodic feedback
WRONG! Employees need constant feedback. Respectable HR people will tell you that there should be nothing discussed during the employee evaluation that they were not already aware of; however, in actual practice the employee evaluation is the moment many managers use the GOTCHA Management Technique by dredging up hearsay and listing new expectations that the employee has never heard before the evaluation.
Tom Peters discussed a technique known as MBWA or Management by Walking Around. The basic idea is the manager stops wasting time sitting in an office and spends it by interacting with his or her employees and customers. This brilliant 21st Century management technique was first discussed in the book, In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman in 1982! For over 25 years managers have been told to get out of her or his office to manage and yet some people still don’t get it.
Myth #2: Evaluations are needed to support disciplinary action
While some managers use the evaluation as a GOTCHA moment, others will minimize a negative performance issue in order to maintain a positive working relationship; therefore, an employee’s evaluation often fails to support disciplinary action taken against them. Time after time an employee’s lawyer seizes on a lack of evidence in the employee’s evaluation to justify disciplinary action by the employer. A manager is better off having written documentation of a problem at the time of the incident rather than trying to use the evaluation to document an issue regarding the employee’s performance.
Myth #3: Evaluations are needed to determine pay increases.
Pay increases need to be fair and equitable, but many organizations find that withholding a pay increase based on performance causes more potential legal problems than is solves, and punishment destroys employee morale rather than improves an individual’s performance. Pay for performance was a novel idea that never delivered on the promises of improved productivity by the HR department.
Myth #4: If a manager is not required to do periodic employee evaluations they will never give the employee the information they need to excel at their job.
An evaluation does not a good manager make! If a manager is not giving constant feedback to their team, then what good are they?
Life Without Evaluations
I know it seems unthinkable for some, but evaluations are an HR imposed control system that is completely unnecessary. In fact, evaluations do more harm to teamwork because they create a formal “Us vs Them” situation between the manager and the worker. Evaluations can make a manager feel superior and that is not a good foundations for positive employee relations.
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How do you do propose to do ‘pay increases’ without performance evaluations? Just everyone gets the same amount? How about bonus decisions?
Without performance evaluations, have you ever come across the situation where one employee works their heart out making a 2x contribution with lots of discretionary effort, while another employee in the exact same role keeps their head downs and does the absolute bare minimum including spending lots of effort trying to figure out how to avoid work? Does this juxtaposition not create morale problems for the first employee (why does that guy get the same rewards as me when he does hardly anything)? How does an organisation without any ‘performance evaluation’ fix that problem?
Paul Kiser said:
First, pay is not a motivator. It may attract a person to a job, and if they are recruited by a competitor pay may keep them at your company, but studies have shown that pay does NOT motivate employee productivity, or if it has any impact it is short-lived. What motivates an employee has been traced back to key factors that have little to do with pay. I think the book, First Break all the Rules, has twelve factors that have more to do with employee motivation than pay.
Second, employee evaluations and HR tend to limit managers more in regard to pay increases than offer more options. Typically, HR set strict rules on pay increases and managers typically feel that there hands are tied in giving pay increases. The frustration I have heard more often is that evaluations limit what a manager can do with pay increases. Certainly, pay increases need to be handle equitably, but why not give the manager the option of giving an employee a pay increase right after they completed a big project, or just before, rather than waiting for the next evaluation?
We’ve come to accept that evaluation=pay increase and that is not true. Pay increases do not need to be attached to evaluations at all.
Thanks for the question! It covers an important issue.
You know, I bug a lot of people who post on this topic of ‘All Performance Evaluations are Bad’. The proposition concerns me because I think (a) it opens the door to mischief by bad bosses to arbitrarily allot rewards, and (b) it restrains the ability to introduce flexible working which needs management by objective to work (and a performance evaluation system to ensure that the objectives have been achieved). You are the first person to come back to me with cogent and sensible answers.
I think your response is making a few distinctions that are important. The first is that pay can motivative, but just not (a) productivity, and (b) not in an enduring way. To acknowledge that pay does affect behaviour (like choosing to move jobs) is an important concession. I definitelyt agree that there are major limitations in the productivity enhancement power of pay. I still would still debate some of your points (eg. is overtime pay a pay-driven productivity enhancement? what about the demotivating impacts of pay poorly done?). But I understand and appreciate more of your points than I have many others on the same subject.
Secondly, you make the distinction between good and bad performance evaluations. Many people writing on this topic simply say ‘get rid of all performance evaluations’. This view I disapprove of. When I drill down on their views, it appears to me that they are really more upset with ‘badly structured or badly done performance reviews’. You are actually distinguishing between the two and proposing constructive ideas (eg. do performance evaluation or pay review right after a big project). I like this idea. It might be a bit complicated in practice, but I applaud the approach of improving the process of measuring out rewards rather than just wantonly jettisoning them.
Paul Kiser said:
Thank you! I appreciate your comments and the time you took to make them.
I have to say that my proposal to eliminate performance evaluations has one BIG caveat. You can’t do away with performance evaluations unless you have well-trained managers. Beyond the training they have to be smart managers. I’ve seen too many managers that can’t see the macro and the micro aspects of a company at the same time. A person needs to protect and support his/her employees AND do the same for the company. Of course, this leads to the next caveat, which is the manager needs to have the leadership of the company serving as a coach, cheerleader, mentor, and humble servant. It comes down to a company respecting their managers.
I have been in a variety of management situations, and a variety of employee situations, as well as counseling other managers (when they are willing to listen) and too often a great manager is defeated by the people above him or her. You can’t have the respect of your employees if you don’t have the respect and loyalty of the company leadership behind you.
If a company creates the correct environment of support and if the manager is smart and well-trained, then the need for a formal employee evaluation can be eliminated in favor of ongoing feedback with flexible pay increases.
I am honored by your compliments and you insight! Thanks again!
my manager add some bad account to my name a week before end of 2010 for submit score card to our Head Office. After done he asked to me to return the accounts to new employee,which this make my performance lower. what should i do ??
Paul Kiser said:
I don’t give employment counseling or advice without having a full picture of the situation. I would encourage you to seek out a professional that is familiar with the industry and the laws of your country.
There is one fact that transcends most employment situations: if you feel you have been asked to do something that you feel is unethical, you are not compelled to do it. An employee always has the option of quitting. The same is true of situations where the employee feels the supervisor has done something unfair. The sacrifice of quitting is significant; however, if asked to do something unethical or unfair and the employee complies, by participating the employee acknowledges that they approve the act and will be willing to do it again or have it happen to them again.
Thanks for your comment.
I’m not going to use a bunch of big words or try to seem too smart, but I like what you say. Most importantly that interaction is probably the biggest factor in performance. Many times interaction with a supervisor consists of a simple hello once a day if the employee is lucky. People fail to realize that most organizations aren’t asking employees to be superstars, we are asking them to perform at a level that is successful. The biggest complaint I have heard is that employers cannot find reliable people. Someone who comes to work and does what they are supposed to do correctly and consistently.
What is the value of communication? First, it takes a leader out from behind the closed office doors. If done with honesty, conversation with employees can yield an amazing amount of information. This information not only helps in forming bonds – employees really work for you not the company. Loyalty is a funny thing, in that it is a two way street. You expect employees to be loyal to you, but you must be loyal to your employees. Next, often times in these conversation you learn that some of your employees have unique talents or skills. These talents or skills can often add valuable resources to your department. Oh and one more thing, there is one more two way street out there, conversations are two way and not only do you want your employees to listen to you but they want you to listen to them. If you don’t listen you kill the trust. You don’t have to take an employee’s suggestions but they have to know you’ve heard them. Guess what once in a while they might actually have some that make sense
Paul Kiser said:
Well said. Thanks.