Understanding The Workplace Performance Appraisal

By Sheila Ferguson

DeChandra Ritter is new to the workforce. She just earned a Bachelor’s Degree last spring and is now completing her first year as an outreach worker. Dee thought she was doing everything correctly. Throughout the year, she followed the prescribed procedures, responded positively to her clients, and kept timely records. Sadly, her first performance appraisal was disappointing. It made Dee question herself and her career choice. No matter where you are in your career, there is more to learn about achieving better results on your annual performance appraisal.

The Corporate World is Changing

In the U.S., performance appraisals have been used for over seven decades. In today’s workforce, the annual performance review is steadily disappearing. Worldwide, management consultants and HR Managers are convinced that there is a mismatch between an organization’s goals with worker performance and the bottom line. Today, many Fortune 500 companies no longer do performance ratings. Instead, they focus on better ways to align organizational goals with worker performance. Organizational behaviorists suggest that poorly drafted performance reviews can affect:

  • employee engagement,
  • morale, 
  • motivation, and
  • the bottom line.  

Where Companies Fall Short

Negative reviews harm a worker’s brain health and emotional stability. These types of reviews are reflections of organizational dysfunction. Flawed and unsatisfactory reviews do workers and the organization a disservice. It is a problem when supervisors cite: 

  • Past missteps,

  • Broad generalizations rather than particulars about the job performance of the last year,

  • Ranking you in comparison to the more seasoned workers.

Companies want to keep employees 

To improve staff outcomes, most corporations are committing to talent retention, growth, and high performance. The pathways to success come through weekly coaching, real-time assessment, and problem-solving activities. Since most companies are not overhauling their performance management systems, employees must take action. If your last annual review was successful and you received a 3% raise, you are one of the lucky ones! In these cases, it is likely that your supervisor:

  • Reserved an uninterrupted hour to meet with you on a regular basis.   
  • Created a two-way process of communication. 
  • Gave you a fair and balanced appraisal of your work performance of the last year;
  • Framed the positives first before outlining any needed areas of development; and   
  • Closed the meeting with “doable” strategies for enriching your job performance. 

Self Help

When you know you have performed quality work, do not throw in the towel, storm out, quit, or hold on to rage. Allow yourself to recover by stopping the elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your body, and then activate a plan of self-care. Try: 

  • Venting and talking with family, friends, and trusted colleagues about your feelings.
  • Using meditation and aromatherapy to breathe in and expel tension. 
  • Exercising; and
  • Using positive self-talk and affirmation.

Take action by asking yourself the right questions. Ask: Am I too new and need more time to experience the organizational culture? Will management become angry with me for asking questions? Is it appropriate to file a grievance to gain resolution? Should I just prepare for next year? Either way, you have the right to:

  • Disagree with the review. 
  • State your disagreement, cite your reasons, and ask for a revision that is more favorable and balanced. 
  • Keep a log of accomplishments across the year. 
  • Talk about those elements of your work that you are most proud of.
  • Link your own performance to the company’s mission.
  • Negotiate respectfully, and 
  • Arrive at a joint agreement with your supervisor on those elements to be modified.  Your grievances should be prepared in writing for a response from your Manager’s Supervisor and the Vice President of Human Resources.  

Finally, talk with your human resource director, and learn more about the company’s performance review process. Consider creating a committee aimed at revising the performance appraisal template. Remember, when advocating for yourself, you also support your co-workers and organizational progress.  

Links to Books on Performance Appraisals

Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead, 1st Edition by Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins

Catalytic Coaching: The End of the Performance Review by Garold L. Markle 


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