Contact us today (908) 347-7793
Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Linkedin
Viewing posts categorised under: Organizational Change

“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.

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.

Change Is Not A Dirty Word – Part 3 of 3

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

In Parts 1 & 2, I explored why the word “change” tends to have a negative emotional connotation and I introduced a systems perspective as a way of looking at resistance to change. 

Energy and Perseverance Organizational change is all about positive energy and finding a new internal balance that enables companies to function more effectively.  This requires leaders to create and sustain a critical mass of energy to outlast the system’s natural defensive reaction to the perceived threat to its current dysfunctional balance.  Most leaders don’t understand this, and they’re not prepared for the frustration they experience. The harder they push, the harder the organization pushes back, resulting in the expenditure of a tremendous amount of energy with little movement. And since followers far outnumber leaders, they have a lot more energy. (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.  

Some Musings on Motivation

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Leadership, Organizational Change, Team Building | 0 comments


  I had a wrestling coach who once told me “You don’t have that much potential, but you can make up for it with hard work.” I’m still trying to figure out how that works. It was right after a match……despite being tired and sweaty, I remember thinking, “Huh?...Doesn’t potential kinda set the ceiling?”   The funny thing about this incident is that my coach was trying to encourage me; I shudder to think what he might have said otherwise. Luckily I had no illusions about my l wrestling capabilities; I’d always been somewhat of an over-achiever so the impact of his statement about my potential was minimal. I just loved the sport; it’s probably one of the most natural sports for a little boy growing up?