Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead

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Title Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead
Publication Type Book
Pub Year 2000
Authors Coens, T., & Jenkins M.
Publisher Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Keywords accountability, appraisal, goals, intervention, ritual
Notes appraisalIn the introduction to the book, subtitled "Letting Go of a Hopeless Ritual", the authors include the following quotation: "The world will not be saved by old minds with new programs. If the world is saved, it will be saved by new minds--with no programs."

The authors argue that appraisal ratings produce "unintended consequences--the insidious, destructive, and counterproductive effects of giving people ratings about their work performance. Whether accurate or not, people are psychologically affected by ratings. And except for people rated at the highest end of the scale, the impact is usually negative and consequently counterproductive to the cause of improving performance." (p. 69)

accountability"These various forms of appraisal are packaged as tools for 'accountability' rather than control. We are comfortable with accountability, but not control--only monsters seek control. Our comfort with accountability is not misplaced. It's a worthy goal, at least to the extent that it means people should take responsibility for their work. The problem lies not in desiring accountability, but in the means of ensuring accountability. Rather than promoting accountability as a value, we try to force people to be responsible. We impose measurement and formal judgment to make sure that people are held accountable. This is precisely what appraisal does. With good intentions, we adorn appraisal with upbeat and friendly terminology, but the features of control are undeniably present and felt by every employee who undergoes the process. Peter Block's observations accurately depict the reality of appraisal.

Peter Block's Observations on Appraisal

Performance appraisals are an instrument for social control. They are annual discussions, avoided more often than held, in which one adult identifies for another adult three improvement areas to work on over the next twelve months. You can soften them all you want, call them development discussions, have them on a regular basis, have the subordinate identify the improvement areas instead of the boss, and discuss values. None of this changes the basic transaction .... if the intent of appraisal is learning, it is not going to happen when the context of the dialogue is evaluation and judgment.
" (p. 82)
goals, intervention"Like every other social intervention, individual goal setting brings unintended consequences. When individual performance goals are imposed on people through appraisal, invariably there are prescribed targets, measurements, deadlines, surveillance, and evaluation. These features undermine intrinsic motivation because they cause people to feel pressured and controlled. Individual performance goals often impede cooperation and the natural sense of teamwork. They precipitate bureaucratic behavior where goals become an end in themselves. When people fail to meet established goals, their confidence and self-esteem are eroded--they become discouraged, disheartened, and cynical, especially when the achievement of goals is tied to compensation or continued employment." (p. 95)
URL http://books.google.com/books?id=TlpnMIYda9kC