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Viewing posts categorised under: Human Resources

“I’d like to give you some feedback…”

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Organizational Change | 0 comments

What’s your immediate gut emotional reaction when you hear those words?  For most of us, our hackles go up and we’re saying something to ourselves like “Here it comes….”   Inevitably it’s perceived as a potential threat to our status or sense of self-worth.  And according to the work of the NeuroLeadership Institute, this naturally invokes a “fight or flight” response since that’s how our brains are hot-wired to respond to perceived threats.   Often the person on the receiving end will try to suppress that initial emotion, particularly since our culture promulgates the myth that if you are a mature adult, you should be receptive to constructive feedback.  But let’s be honest, how many of us truly like or welcome criticism?  Suppression of emotions is not the greatest of long term strategies, so you may sit there and grit your teeth, but sometimes it doesn’t even work in the short term, and the receiver responds with defensiveness and even anger.  In any case, the conversation’s emotional charge from this point on, makes it difficult for the receiver to really hear what the person is saying.   Even if you follow all the rules for giving effective feedback, like “be descriptive not judgmental,” it still feels like criticism.  So, what happens in the traditional Performance Review?  The manager takes the employee’s work effort for an entire year, reduces it to number representing EVALUATIONS for different dimensions which yields a single number representing the overall EVALUATION of the person’s 12 month performance.  If I’m the employee, what am I supposed to do with this information?  Since these numbers all represent an evaluation of performance over time, they’re seldom specific enough to be actionable.  And if it’s not actionable, how am I supposed to improve my performance. Without being told, often the evaluation is a comparative measure, meaning my performance vs. yours. But no manager in their right mind is going to sit there and tell me that my performance is not as good as one of my co-workers.  Talk about a threat to the person’s status..,all the employee hears is that he or she is better than them .You thought the conversation up to this point was emotionally loaded?...That’s a recipe for an instant fight.  And yet, that’s exactly the message being sent when companies go to forced distributions or rankings often for Pay for Performance compensation purposes.  And since these comparisons inevitably involve employees doing very different jobs, the ranking process often turns into a political football.   And then executives shake their head in wonderment when Gallup releases a white paper showing only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed  in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.  (Gallup, “Re-Engineering Performance Management,” p,4)   Actually most executives know that the vast majority of their employees (including managers) hate performance reviews.  Many executives don’t bother doing them for their own direct reports.  What does that say about how senior management perceives the value of the process?   Finally, however, some major companies like Cigna, Microsoft, Adobe and GE are doing away with formal employee evaluations, and the number is growing.  According to a recent article from the NeuroLeadership Institute, their research show the number of companies making this change increased from 55 in 2015 to 155 in 2016.  (NeuroLeadership Institute, “Want to Kill Your Performance Rankings?  Here’s How to Ensure Success”)   Instead most of these companies are revising the process to emphasize managers giving continuous feedback to their employees, and having conversations regarding employee development.  Are we there yet, where the process will no longer be perceived by employees as threatening.   No….but at least these steps are starting to move us in the right direction.

Explain to Me Again Why We’re Doing Performance Management Reviews?

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

I wish I had a dollar for every time a manager or attorney told me the reason why companies have Performance Management programs with formal annual reviews, is so they can terminate employees and protect themselves from being sued. Here’s my response: “Pretend you’re a prosecutor in a murder case. The police find the murder weapon, a gun, with fingerprints on it, but no fingerprints of the defendant. Would that support your case or make it more difficult for you to get a conviction? The answer is obvious: The gun makes your case more difficult to prove. If there are other fingerprints on the gun, this indicates that it wasn’t wiped clean before the police found it, and, if the defendant committed the crime you would expect his prints to be on it. The same is true for annual Performance Reviews. When a manager who wants to terminate someone, goes to that employee’s past Performance Evaluations or Reviews to support their action, 90+% of those Reviews are glowing. They make it harder to justify terminating the employee! As the manager, you’d be better off if they didn’t exist. Let’s look closer. First you need to determine if the reason for termination is associated with disciplinary action or poor performance. Discipline involves some form of unacceptable behavior or conduct. When it occurs, the employee becomes subject to the company’s (hopefully) progressive disciplinary policy with some combination of verbal warning(s), written warnings, possible suspension from work without pay, and ultimately termination of employment. The important point is that the employee has usually done something unacceptable, a specific behavior like fighting at work, using drugs on site, or excessive absenteeism or tardiness, and often there is a company policy that identifies such behavior as being subject to disciplinary action. Some behaviors like fighting or on-site drug use are usually grounds for immediate dismissal. Unacceptable performance seldom involves one specific behavior. Instead, it usually focuses on the results the person is producing, and this shouldn’t be subject to disciplinary action. A better approach is a Performance Improvement Program (PIP) which usually gives the person a certain amount of time to improve their performance to a satisfactory level or risk termination. The important point is that the Performance Management process is not the time or place for in-depth conversations in either case. If the person is on a PIP, the issue is unsatisfactory performance, and an additional discussion with the person as part of the Performance Management process becomes redundant. As the manager, you should are already be meeting with and giving the person feedback as part of the PIP. If the person has received disciplinary action earlier in the year, then it becomes a judgment call as to whether the manager should continue to discuss it during any Performance Management conversations based on the gravity of the unacceptable behavior, where the person is in the disciplinary process, when the unacceptable behavior last occurred, and how the person has responded. Imagine a situation where an employee received a verbal warning for excessive tardiness in early March of the current year, but following that, they stopped being late. If you’re going to talk with them about their behavior later in the year as part of the Performance Management process, probably the only thing you’ll be saying is that you’re glad they corrected the excessive tardiness and encourage them to continue to do what they’ve been doing. Why would you want to say anything else? The word discipline, despite it’s current negative connotation, originally meant “to teach” in Latin. If the employee has “learned,” there is little to say other than to acknowledge it. The approach I advocate for what I call the Performance Planning, Management & Development Process eliminates the year-end Employee Performance Review or Appraisal. Instead, the process focuses on the employee and manager having high quality discussions during the year to help them identify and manage what to do going forward The meetings are designed to review the status of the agreements that the employee and manager made at the beginning of the year in terms of desired results, and their behavior and decide what, if anything needs to change to get better performance. Any year-end discussion focuses on "lessons learned." The year-end Employee Performance Appraisal just gets in the way. You can’t manage the past; you can only learn from it!

The Death of the “Wish List”

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Organizational Change | 0 comments

review time Business Concept time for review Business team hands at work with financial reports and a laptop The “Wish List” was the name employees gave for the Performance Review process at a major insurance company where my friend worked. At the beginning of each year, employees set or were given a list of objectives to accomplish by year end. This “Wish List” then went into the person’s desk drawer, only to be looked at again shortly before the end of the performance year, because the person’s Performance Review was coming up. Sound familiar? This is just one of the problems that occurs when companies rely on objectives as their criteria for evaluating performance in their Performance Review Programs. Performance Reviews have long been a source of unhappiness for both managers and employees. Some companies. however. are starting to change their process, even eliminating the year-end evaluation and instead, having managers provide ongoing feedback to employees during the performance year.  If your goal is to get the best possible performance from your people, these are certainly step in the right direction but here are some additional suggestions to make process even more effective. 1. Eliminate the final performance evaluation and its tie to compensation. This changes the tone and quality of meetings the employee and manager have throughout the year.  It makes them more effective by eliminating any incentive for the employee to “lowball” or set easy objectives. Without that incentive, employees will be more willing to take ownership of and set objectives that are more difficult and have greater risk. This simple change increases employees’ motivation and has a dramatic impact upon the results they achieve. Doing away with the final evaluation also builds flexibility into the process by allow the manager and employee to change the objective when conditions change that are outside the control of the employee. Currently when that happens, the organizational response tends to be “Sorry, but those are the breaks," because they fear that this will be used as an excuse to lower the bar when an objective hasn’t been met. Just imagine the impact of this response on the motivation of the employee much less the credibility of the Performance Review process when conditions have changed. 2. The meeting between the manager and employee at the beginning of the performance year is critical. This is where they establish a flexible “contract” or framework for the upcoming year. This contract has three components: • What results should the employee accomplish during the year and how are they aligned with the results the manager is responsible for achieving. • What behavior should the employee continue or change during the year? • What actions will the manager take to support what the employee’s is trying to accomplish (either a result or change in behavior) Part of this initial framework includes how often the manager and employee agree to meet to check on the status of attainment of objectives, and discuss any changes in behavior that they have agreed upon. What’s working?,,,What’s not working?...What does the employee need to do differently to meet a particular objective?...What additional resources and support does the employee need from the manager? 3. Make the employee responsible for scheduling these meetings, and taking any notes. Employees need to take ownership of their own performance…the sooner. the better. Too often we hear that employees want more performance feedback. My question is, “What prevents them for asking for it?  Isn’t that what adults do?..Take action to meet their own needs?" At the end of the performance year, the employee and manager meet to recap the year. This should be a learning experience for both parties addressing the question of “What have we learned that we can use going forward?” 4. The employee maintains the only record of these meetings. They aren’t sent to HR or kept in anyone’s personnel file. They aren’t kept by the manager because that makes them the property of the company.Why is this important?  Just knowing that sometime in the future another manager could see these records distorts the interaction between the manager and employee in the present….just as giving “constructive” feedback in public is counter-productive. In response to the common complaint, ‘We need these records to support  terminating poor performers.” ...that’s nonsense. 90% of the time when a manager wants to terminate an employee and goes to the person’s previous appraisals all they find are glowing reviews. Now they’re left with information that conflicts with the action they want to take. The answer here is simple, when an employee’s performance deteriorates to a level where a manager is considering termination, the manager works with HR to remove the person from the above Performance Review process and they go onto a Performance Improvement Plan or PIP. That should give you all the documentation you need.

Emotions and the Workplace – Venturing into the Quicksand

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Team Building | 0 comments

Emotions and the workplace have always been uncomfortable companions. For a long time a lot of managers would have said that the workplace was no place for people’s emotions. The conventional thinking went along the lines of: “Businesses operate better when governed by objective rational thinking. Emotions cloud people’s thinking and judgment. It’s better if people leave their “feelings” at home or drop them off at the front door of the workplace.” To read more, click on the following link: Read More

The Performance Review Cycle Continues…And Nothing Ever Changes!

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Organizational Change | 0 comments

How Come We Keep Doing the Same Thing When We Know It Doesn’t Work? According to a 2010 survey by Sibson Consulting Inc. and WorldatWork, a professional association, one academic review of more than 600 employee-feedback studies found that two-thirds of appraisals had zero or even negative effects on employee performance after the feedback was given. Here we go again, folks. It’s that time of the year.   For companies whose fiscal year corresponds to the calendar year, managers will soon begin writing up their evaluations of employee performance for 2015 and get ready to review them with the person. And despite all the studies and research showing how counter-productive the review process is, and how much both managers and employees feel that the process is a waste of both time and energy, companies continue to hang on to the same old approach.  

Management by Objectives (MBO) Is a Great Tool…Just Don’t Use It to Evaluate Employee Performance

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Organizational Change | 1 comments

Part 2 of a 2-part article In Part 1, we discussed the four basic steps in the Managing by Objectives (MBO) process and how each step can lead to positive organizational results. In Part 2 we discuss why the MBO process should not be used to evaluate employee performance, however, and how doing so undermines the value of the process.  

Management by Objectives (MBO) Is a Great Tool….Just Don’t Use It to Evaluate Performance

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources | 1 comments

Part 1 of a 2-Part Article   An MBO process that helps produce positive business results has four basic steps:

  1. Objective setting or defining a desired result you want to accomplish by a specific point in time.
  2. Action planning or creating a plan for the steps you will take to attain that result.
  3. Periodic managerial reviews to check on your progress toward meeting the objective, and discuss needed adjustments, and
  4. A Final Managerial Review of objective attainment

HR Needs to Stop Being Its Own Worst Enemy

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources | 0 comments


Somebody Has to Do It, It’s ironic that HR began as a payroll function. Talk about a no-win situation, payroll is taken for granted when it’s done properly, and all hell breaks loose when there’s a mistake. Independent of whether you think money is a motivator or not, employees tend to get upset when their paycheck is wrong.