Why bother with appraisals when no one likes doing them?

Conducting appraisals is one aspect of performance management utilised to manage performance and is seen as a ‘must do’ within the workplace. Surprisingly however, most business owners and managers dislike doing them and often appraisals don’t get done or are conducted in such a way that has it little benefit for either party.

 My reason for writing this blog came out from a conversation with a friend who was told last Friday that she was having an appraisal on Monday (today). During my work with organisations on performance management some of the things that I have observed about appraisals include:

  • Seen as a tick box exercise
  • Lack of time to prepare as cited above
  • The manager does all the talking
  • Last year’s appraisal form being copied and re-dated
  • Not carried out at all
  • Rushed and conducted in public spaces
  • Cancelled because the manager is busy
  • Appraisals which took 2 hours because of the lengthy form filling

Giving feedback about performance is not something that is done once or twice a year but is an ongoing process throughout the year. The appraisal formalises the feedback and performance assessment that has already taken place, looking back and reviewing performance and looking forward to the future opportunities.


Appraisals however are not just about reviewing performance or identifying measures for improving performance and professional development. It enables you and your employee to have a period of focused time together. It enables you get to know your staff better and what motivates them, what they are interested in and where their strengths and potential lie and what can be done to increase their performance and productivity for the future. Thus it can help to build and improve working relationships and in succession and workforce planning.

 It gives you the opportunity to clarify and reinforce goals and priorities so can the individual can see where his contribution fits into the team, department, and organisational goals. Staff who are aware of how their role and work fits into the wider business / organisational objectives, who are appreciated and recognised for their achievements, are better engaged. There is a growing body of research evidence to show that organisations which have highly engaged staff have higher levels of profitability and productivity, increased customer satisfaction and staff attendance.

There is no one right way to conduct an appraisal as this will depend on the nature and culture of the business and the people involved. Regardless of whatever approach and method you use, 2 fundamental apects of conducting appraisals include:

  Fit for purpose  Be honest and examine your reason for conducting an appraisal. Why are you doing it and for what purpose? How does it benefit you, the employee and the organisation?

 Productive dialogue Without a thoughtful two-way discussion about the content, performance review forms are simply meaningless paperwork. The most important thing in any appraisal is engaging in dialogue to understand each other’s perspectives, to listen to understand, asking open-ended, encouraging curiosity and exploration so that there is a new shared understanding and meaning.

This is my perspective, what is yours? What is your experience of conducting appraisals or being the recipient of one?  



About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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3 Responses to Why bother with appraisals when no one likes doing them?

  1. David Goddin says:

    The bug bear of many! The key issue for me is separating the organisational processes from good management & leadership.

    Often when we talk about appraisals people only relate to the organisational processes – “we need to complete the form by 31 December.”. I think a great starting point is to ignore this completely and only focus on how you provide your staff regular feedback & appraisal.

    For me this is all about meaningful dialogue. I wrote about this earlier this year (http://bit.ly/nQ22hk) and I think this resonates strongly with your views/experiences. From this perspective, the organisational processes that you need to comply with become more straightforward. They can be dealt with easily and more importantly are seen for what they are not how you manage.

    At the end of the day your appraisal of staff is also a reflection on how you manage – so do it well!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi David
      Totally agree with your point on focusing on providing regular feedback and appraisal. Though I do wonder if there wasn’t a ‘complete form by 31 December’ whether there would be any feedback at all? And is no feedback better than poor feedback?
      I think your last point is excellent and captures the essence of this succinctly.

      • David Goddin says:

        Interesting to think about what would happen! If there wasn’t a “complete form by 31 December” process there would be no system to blame, no artificial processes, dis-satisfaction wouldn’t be disguised by the form filling exercise, managers employees would have to take responsibility (or not)….

        So what if there was no feedback process from your manager? Well that’s feedback in itself! They wouldn’t retain talent. Their lack of feedback/appraisal giving would become known. Management may even pay more attention to their ability to provide ongoing feedback. (All comes back to my last point really!)

        Personally, I think poor feedback is better than none – an effort is being made to give some feedback and lessons can be learnt from the process. The trouble is the consequences are more immediately apparent so I think when people fear giving poor feedback (confidence?) they choose the “no feedback” option….

        Sounds like a great debate to come!!

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