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.
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 their offices 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 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 solved, 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 he or she will never give the employee the information needed to excel at his or her job.
An evaluation does not a good manager make! If managers are not giving constant feedback to their teams, 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 foundation for positive employee relations.