Showing posts with label Objective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Objective. Show all posts

November 14, 2013

The Backlash Against Performance Reviews

So there is big backlash against employee performance reviews. 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek declares the annual performance review to be "worthless."

The performance review ritual is traced back to the 1930's with Harvard Business School Professor, Elton Mayo, who found that productivity and satisfaction of workers improved when they were measured and paid attention to. This was referred to as the Hawthorne Effect because the study was conducted at the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric outside Chicago.

Later in the 1950's, the Performance Rating Act institutionalized mandated performance reviews for federal workers, 

But studies in the last 2 decades have found employees (42%) dissatisfied with the process and even HR managers (58%) disliking the system. 

Clinical Psychologist, Aubrey Daniels, call the process "sadistic!"

The annual reviews are disliked for many reasons including the process being:

1) Arbitrary, subjective, and personality-driven rather than objective, meaningful, and performance-based.

2) Feedback that is too little and too late, instead of real-time when good or bad performance behavior occurs.  

3) A power tool that managers use in a "culture of domination" as opposed to something that really helps employees improve. 

4) Something used to punish people and build a case against employees to "get rid of you" rather than to reward and recognize them. 

At the same time, this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft and other companies are getting rid of forced employee rankings.

The ranking system was developed by General Electric in the 1980's under Jack Welch and has been referred to as ""Stack Rankings," "Forced Rankings" and "Rank and Yank." 

Under this system, employees are ranked on a scale--with a certain percentage of employees (at GE 10% and Microsoft 5%, for example) ranked in the lowest level.  

The lowest ranked employees then are either let go or marginalized as underperformers getting no bonuses, equity awards, or promotions. 

"At least 30% of Fortune 500 companies continue to rank employees along a curve."

Microsoft is dumping the annual quantitative ranking and replacing it with more frequent qualitative evaluations. 

UCLA Professor, Samuel Colbert, says this is long overdue for a yanking at companies and managers' jobs is "not to evaluate," but rather "to make everyone a five."

While this certainly sounds very nice and kumbaya-ish, it also seems to reflect the poor job that managers have done in appraising employees fairly and working with them to give them a genuine chance to learn and improve, before pulling the rating/ranking trigger that can kill employees career prospects. 

A bad evaluation not only marginalizes an employee at their current position, but it limits their ability to find something else.

Perhaps, this is where the qualitative aspect really comes into play in terms of having frank, but honest discussions with employees on what they are doing well and where they can do better, and how they can get the training and experience they need. 

It's really when an employee just doesn't want to improve, pull their weight, and is undermining the mission and the team that performance action needs to be taken. 

I don't think we can ever do without performance reviews, but we can certainly do them better in terms of providing constructive feedback rather than destructive criticism and using this to drive bona-fide continuous improvement as opposed to employee derision. 

This is possible where there are participants willing to listen to a fair critique and work together on getting to the next level professionally and for the good of the organization. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Mediocre2010)
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April 4, 2013

Difficult Employees x 7

So I was learning about some management best practices in terms of there being 7 major types of difficult employees:
  1. Challengers--employees that are oppositional; they resent authority, are disrespectful and confrontational. 
  2. Clingers--people who are overly dependent; they are uncertain about what to do, fearful of making a mistake, withhold their opinions and may harbor deep resentments.
  3. Drama Queens/Kings--these folks crave attention; they can be found spreading gossip and rumors and making dramatic pronouncements both professional and personal.
  4. Loners--people who like to be left alone; they tend to hover over their computers and avoid personal interactions. 
  5. Power Grabbers--staff that tend to get into power struggles with their boss; they ignore instructions and resist direction. 
  6. Slackers--those who don't do the work they are supposed to do; they tend to linger on break, calls, or the Internet or be out of the office altogether.
  7. Space Cadets--employees whose minds and discussion always seem to be in la-la-land; they tend to be off topic and impractical. 
Obviously, each presents a unique set of management challenges, but one of the most important things a manager can do is focus on specific behaviors and the impact of those on the quality/quantity of work and on the organization, and work with the employee whether through coaching, counseling, mentoring, or training on how to improve their performance. 

It should never be about the manager and the employee, but rather about the results and the outcomes. Keep it objective, be empathetic, document the issues, and work in earnest with the person to improve (where possible). 

Difficult employees are not evil characters (or villains) like in the James Bond movies, but rather humans being that need inspiration, collaboration, guidance, feedback, and occasionally when appropriate, a change in venue--where a square peg can fit in a square hole. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 21, 2009

Taking the Politics out of Enterprise Decision Making

Some people say power is primarily exerted through military might (“hard power”), others says it is through use of diplomacy—communications, economic assistance, and investing in the global good (“soft power”). Then, there is a new concept of employing the optimal mix of military might and diplomacy (“smart power”).

It’s interesting to me how the Department of Defense—military approach—and the Department of State—diplomatic approach—is as much alive and well in our enterprises as it is in the sphere of world politics to get what we want.

At work, for example, people vie—some more diplomatically and some more belligerently—for resources and influence to advance their agendas, programs, projects, and people. This is symptomatic of the organizational and functional silos that continue to predominate in our organizations. And as in the world of politics, there are often winners and losers, rather than winners and winners. Those who are the “experts” in the arts of diplomacy and war (i.e. in getting what they want) get the spoils, but often at the expense of what may be good for the organization as a whole.

Instead of power politics (hard, soft, or smart), organizations need to move to more deliberate, structured, and objective governance mechanisms. Good governance is defined more by quantifiable measures than by qualitative conjecture. Sound governance is driven by return on investment, risk mitigation, strategic business alignment, and technical compliance rather than I need, want, like, feel, and so forth. Facts need to rule over fiction. Governance should not be a game of power politics.

Henry Mintzberg, the well-known management scholar, identified three mechanisms for managers to exert influence in the organization (Wall Street Journal, 17 August 2009):

1. Managing action—“managers manage actions directly. They fight fires. They manage projects. They negotiate contracts.” They get things done.

2. Managing people—“managers deal with people who take the action, so thy motivate them and they build teams and they enhance the culture and train them and do things to get people to take more effective actions.”

3. Managing information—“managers manage information to drive people to tale action—through budgets and objectives and delegating tasks and designing organization structure.”

It is in the third item—managing information—that we have the choice of building sincere business cases and creating a genuine call to action or to devolve into power politics, exerting hard, soft, and smart influence to get what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.

When information is managed through the exertion of power, it can be skewed and distorted. Information can be manipulated, exaggerated, or even buried. Therefore, it is imperative to build governance mechanisms that set a level playing field for capturing, creating, calculating, and complying with a set of objective parameters that can be analyzed and evaluated in more absolute terms.

When we can develop decision support systems and governance mechanisms that take the gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim out of the process, we will make better and more productive decisions for the enterprise.


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