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The Often Ineffective Performance Appraisal

History will not be kind to the performance appraisal. After decades of lackluster experiences, stale formats, and non-existent correlations between assessment and achievement, most savvy business leaders and modern management experts would tell you that the performance appraisal is a well-intended yet failed exercise in behavior modification.

In a 2014 survey of 1,480 business professionals, an astounding 76% of participants gave their organizations a “C” or worse on the way it conducts its performance appraisal process; 25% gave their organization a “D” or worse. Like the abacus, typewriter, and that sound you heard when you connected to a modem, the performance appraisal should be immediately shipped to the Museum of Outdated Business Artifacts.

Your “Performance Calibration”

While we love positive feedback, we don’t love being assessed. There is something palpably uncomfortable about sitting in an office, hearing a recap of your exhaustive and tiring efforts over the prior year distilled down into a rating of 1 to 5. Despite the fact that 99.9% of the world’s population would do anything other than participate in the performance appraisal process, the performance appraisal continues to survive. Clever advocates have tried to deflect the criticism of performance appraisals by giving them new names like the performance assessment or performance calibration. Creative technologists have built snazzy online platforms that self-generate standardized comments and allow multiple raters to provide input. Capable Human Resource leaders have broadened the role of the performance appraisal by integrating it into a larger “performance management system.” However, as the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig. Not that I am associating pigs with performance appraisals – surveys have proven that people like pigs more.

It is no wonder that, by the time you enter the workplace, you are fully expecting the apex of your career to be best described as “4.2.” The times, however, are changing. Employers from across the globe are tiring of this aging method for measuring and communicating performance. If performance management systems were a currency in today’s financial markets, they would be downgraded to a point of worthlessness. The words are archaic, the numbers are impersonal, and the performance appraisal’s ability to positively modify behavior is underwhelming.


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Ed Evarts is the founder and president of Excellius Leadership Development, an organization focused on coaching mid- to senior- level leaders and their teams in business environments. With over twenty-five years of innovative leadership and management experience, Ed possesses the ability to build awareness, create action, and deliver results. Known for his business acumen, his ability to resolve complex human relations issues, and his enthusiastic, accessible and responsive style, Ed partners with managers, leaders and business teams to explore clarity and communication, and traverse conflict and change.