About eight years into my first career (as many of you know I’ve had a few), I ranked high enough to have access to files. As any good snooping executive would do, I looked at my folder. To my surprise there was almost nothing in it. Okay, yes, there was the usual tax forms, my original applications, and some outdated references but what was obviously not present was all but a very few performance evaluations. For a moment, I thought it was some kind of trick or joke, and then it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a written evaluation in years. Why? Because I kept moving up the levels and around the company, and each time my current supervisor would, with some relief I’m sure, figure why waste the time. In fact, once I was told just that, “Jane, you got the title, the position, and the money — what more do you want?” At the moment I agreed. I now realize it was a disservice to me and a risk to the company.

Here’s why I am a true believer in the performance evaluation process.

  1. (And I really mean when I say this is #1) Good people deserve to be told, in a formal and official way, how and why they are doing well. They also need to be thanked. Too much time is spent on the bottom 10% of staff and woefully little on the people who would be the hardest to replace and missed most. Everyone likes to hear good news from a credible source, yet many executives have a hard time giving praise and showing appreciation. I promise you money isn’t enough. Examples are essential. They don’t have to be the shining moments but good, solid, specifics as to why individuals and their work is valued. Everyone needs something to hold onto, especially during trying times, (or when competitors are trying to steal your employees).
  2. Motivate. Most of us want to improve, expand, or enhance. Performance evaluations provide the opportunity to do so in a way different from our day-to-day normal routine.
  3. It’s about the employee. For a brief amount in time, the focus is away from the projects, timetable, benchmarks, and is about the individual. Considering how many hours we all contribute to the workplace, isn’t it the least individuals can expect? I once had a “year-end” review walking out of headquarters’ front door, another on a phone call while my boss drove feverishly to a presentation he was particularly worried about, and finally, and the best, found the forms in an envelope on my desk with a Post It “tell me what you think, your raise is in today’s paycheck.” These are only memorable because they were so ridiculous. Oh, and they never went in my aforementioned file.
  4. Avoid passive aggression. The cowardly way to address issues with a staff member is through sarcasm, side comments, or rude e-mails. It takes a certain amount of courage to confront someone in a way that is fair, honest, and to the point. If you believe it enough to say it, you should believe it enough to write it. The evaluation process allows this to happen. It’s what you would want, isn’t it?
  5. Look at the big picture, over time. The evaluation process, hopefully, allows everyone to take an overall view. It’s not about the moment, or last week, it’s about a period of time and the highs and lows as well as outcomes. I often remind coaching clients that the month in which their performance appraisal is written has to be stellar primarily because many supervisors are so shortsighted. Try to avoid this with your people.
  6. Everyone forgets. Here’s where self-evaluations are priceless; the employee gets their say and in the process is helping you write the evaluation. It’s hard; especially if you have a large number of people reporting to you, to remember everything. Encourage your people to give you details and suggestions. It also is a great gauge of whether the two of you are on the same page and a good predictor of how the conversation will go.
  7. Protect yourself. There are a few employees, and I truly believe they are a very small minority, who are vindictive, argumentative, delusional, and/or litigious. I can’t tell you how many times I have had supervisors and coaching clients who wanted to take action against an employee only to be told it was “impossible” because of a lack of a paper trail. No one enjoys this type of documentation but it’s an essential part of being a supervisor. I always wrote the most difficult appraisals first. Otherwise, they hung over the entire process, encouraging me to avoid everything and causing a few sleepless nights. Hunker down and do it. I promise you it’s a great investment of time.

Writing performance appraisals takes time; more time than you think and more than you probably plan, or want to give. They require dedicated hours, not on-the-run, during conference calls or at the last minute. Whatever amount of time you think you’ll need, triple it and you’ll be closer to reality.

Also, we expect our employees to be on time and to get work completed on time. So, if evaluations happen in your company the first week of December be ready. Schedule meetings with each of your people and make sure you keep the appointment. It shows you take the process seriously and respect the person.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.