Shortcomings of the annual work appraisal

Lucy Kellaway, writing in the Fin. Times, April 2, 2007 at 8with her inimitable bite, lampoons annual evaluations. They are clogged with bureaucracy such as having pages and pages of evaluation form to complete and multiple signatures to obtain (See my post of Jan. 24, 2006 about the use of company-wide forms.). “Then there is the tiresome business of trying to make what is subjective into something that can be measured objectively.” She mocks at grading a lawyer on a scale of one to 10 on characteristics such as “problem-solving” and “integrity.” Third is the fanciful approach of setting three or more targets for the employee for the year; she believes for most people the target should be to “keep on keeping on.”

Most of her scorn Kellaway saves for the way the evaluation process leads to fudge. Because it is difficult to deliver criticism and because the underling must work with the criticizer the rest of the year it makes it almost impossible to say anything even slightly critical in the appraisal. As her last blow, she notes the difficulty of being specific, not platitudinous, in an appraisal. Is the term “hard worker” vague or specific? What about “results oriented”? How direct and clear are terms like “amiable” and “team player”?

Nearly all in-house lawyers, on both sides of the evaluation, would agree with this broadside (See my posts of Feb. 15, 2006 on the shift from evaluations to performance management and references cited; and Nov. 6, 2006 on dislike of evaluations.).

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