Heera Training and Management Consultancy

eNewsletter October 2011

Dear Everyone,

Hi! And how are you all? It was again a busy month in September, inclusive stints in Kota Kinabalu and Penang. I met some ‘super’ people in Kota Kinabalu, who were full of enthusiasm during the training. And this is the part that I really like in my job i.e. meeting new and interesting people who give me a new perspective in my life. At the same time, it is so fulfilling when I can in a small way enhance or else make them better people.

I am aware that October and November will be difficult months in organizations because it is time for the ‘dreaded’ annual appraisals. Hence this month I want to write about appraisals from a ‘political’ perspective.

As we are all aware, politics is an integral part of the working environment of all organizations. Most employees, at some time or other, take part in the dynamics of politics so as to have some measure of influence over organizational activities in order to serve their own vested interests.

Politics is also prevalent in performance appraisals. The nature of appraisals is such that an appraiser has a direct influence over the perceived performance of another employee, through the ratings system. As the appraisal system is usually the basis for the reward and compensation system, these ratings will have major implications in relation to pay, promotions, bonuses etc. It is therefore no surprise that negative political activities may result as individuals try to manipulate the appraisal system to serve their own interests.

Much of this political activity is centered on the fact that managers and executives usually have a significant amount of latitude in evaluating subordinates performances. This gives them a great deal of autonomy, which can be abused. By giving inflated ratings to selected subordinates for example, these managers and executives ensure that these subordinates become obliged to them. Subordinates will then usually reciprocate in order to maintain long term goodwill and to protect their own political interests. At the same time, the appraisal process can also be politically manipulated to ‘punish’ uncooperative or disliked subordinates.

Both activities are disruptive and will have a negative effect on organizations. When appraisals are inflated, they give individuals a false sense of security as undesired behaviors are rewarded. When ratings are intentionally deflated on the other hand, frustration, bitterness and anger can result. Incorrect signals are sent to these employees as a result of this inaccurate feedback. This can have a damaging effect on performance, as it falsely tells the mediocre, that they are doing well, and the good that they are not performing.

To be successful therefore, any appraisal system must have safeguards incorporated into the procedures to ensure fairness and effectiveness. Some suggestions are as follows:

  • Begin with performance planning. Goals, KPI’s or work objectives must be clearly set so that the employee’s performance can be ‘measured’. Employees cannot be effective if they do not know what they are supposed to achieve during the year.
  • Ensure an ongoing coaching process. This means that employees must be constantly coached on things they could do to achieve their work objectives. Never, ever leave employees to ‘fend’ on their own.
  • Gather information from a number of sources. This increases objectivity and ensures all factors impacting performance are considered. This information could include objective data like call records, sales reports or customer complaints.
  • Document significant occurrences. Managers tend to be forgetful and hence some form of note taking must be done throughout the year on significant occurrences, positive or negative. This documentation will be invaluable in supporting the performance appraisal decisions.
  • Adequately prepare and train superiors. Training will not solve all appraisal problems but will certainly reduce them, if superiors are trained to manage the appraisal process more effectively.

Performance appraisal exercises are in a sense, a necessary evil in organizations. They provide valuable information to an organization about its employees, and yet its management and conduct is fraught with difficulties. In the final analysis, managers must realize that there is no perfect system, as we are dealing with the human factor. Conflict and problems will forever be an eternal part of the performance appraisal process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. Till my November newsletter, do have a great month ahead.