With due deference to the human resources community, I have never been a big fan of appraisals. I do understand why they are necessary, but it must be said that they take an inordinate amount of time. The systems-based processes that have been designed at great cost to help us complete the task are not very helpful unless you are prepared to devote many days learning how to use them properly. Let’s face it, there are more important things to do.
My dislike for appraisals has never really changed. When I was a marketing graduate, I did anything possible to avoid filling out all the pre-appraisal homework. That was in the days when you only had to fill out a few boxes by hand, so I can’t even blame complex processes for my failings.
Over the years, I have worked for a number of people and their attitudes towards appraisals have varied greatly. My happiest times have been with those bosses who have talked to me throughout the year, giving me feedback along the way. For these, the appraisal itself was a chance to have a nice coffee and chat about life and work rather than an examination-like process in its own right. It was a means to an end, not a substitute for day-to-day engagement.
My most miserable times have been spent working for bosses who treat appraisal season as the highlight of the year. They came meticulously prepared and expected me to be the same. They judged me based on how well I had prepared for my appraisal rather than how good a job I did for the other 364 days a year. As with most poor managers, they hid behind process.
“They are more interested in technical point scoring than in winning hearts and minds”
Now I sit on the other side of the table, I find it fascinating to see how members of my own team prepare. Difficult employees do exactly the same as those weak managers. They are always the best prepared with their form filling and are defensive about just about everything that comes up in their appraisal. They are adamant that they are already top grade and more interested in technical point scoring than in winning hearts and minds.
People with that kind of attitude won’t be going far in my marketing department. I expect, however, that HR will probably want to promote them off the back of their form-filling excellence. What a great way to do business.