top of page

Common Sense Performance Appraisals

As the leader of several business units in my career, I wasted tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time on sourcing and implementing performance appraisal systems. Surely (I believed), there has to be an appraisal process that is simple to use, objective, and fair. Spoiler alert - I never found it.

Performance appraisals serve several important functions. Employees need periodic feedback to ensure they are meeting expectations. If so, it provides a motivational incentive to keep on performing well. If not, the appraisal presents an opportunity to get clarification on performance standards and a path toward improvement. Appraisals also help determine which employees merit promotion, need training, and re-assignment, or dismissal.

A wide variety of performance appraisals exist, each with benefits as well as limitations. Some measure individual traits such as reliability and collaborative skills. Others emphasize meeting goals such as production targets or sales quotas. Still others target specific behaviors. However, people are much more diverse than most appraisal systems can accommodate. One size does not fit all when it comes to a performance appraisals. As much as practical, managers should tailor performance reviews to each employee and the situation at hand. What does this mean?

It means knowing your employees and how to best interrelate with them. Produce thoughtful, detailed, written assessments for your more traditional reports - those that value structure, detailed planning, and order. To those individuals, a written appraisal serves almost as a ritual marking of time. They read every word and value the the time taken by the manager to recap, explain, and assess the employee's contributions. For others - those highly participative employees who favor engagement and relationships - the spoken word, collegial tone, and face-to-face time with the manager matter more than the written word. Strive for discussion, empathy, explanation, and active listening with these employees. Other, highly individualistic staff members, place minimal value on written appraisals or the verbal review. They tend to do what they deem to be important and are usually more personally motivated despite performance expectations. Merely covering the basics of the goals and results is sufficient for these employees. Instead of a thorough review of the past, these independent thinkers value the present situation much more.

For a copy of our trade journal article on performance appraisals, contact Dr. Ed Wright at


bottom of page