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eponymoushipster's avatar

What do you think of self-appraisal and performance journals in the workplace?

Asked by eponymoushipster (20192 points ) February 20th, 2009

Where I work, we have to do regular self-appraisals and maintain a performance journal, recording what we’ve accomplished in connection with “goals” management has set. What’s your view on this? Does it matter? And how do you feel about talking about yourself so much? Is it better to just do a good job and get marked results or do you have to (or should you have to?) put people on notice that you’re doing your job well?

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9 Answers

kevbo's avatar

I’ve been more productive when I’ve had to monitor or record my activity, but it gets tedious.

TenaciousDenny's avatar

I had to do stuff like this at my last job, and it was definitely annoying having to write about yourself, but I think it is a valuable tool for management. It keeps its employees more goal oriented and focused on improving their position in the company.

At my current job, there really is no self-appraisal process, or really any kind of review process in general. I do enjoy this job more, but I would say I have less direction in the company, and it’s not very fulfilling as a whole. Work has job become getting things done day-by-day, with no long term plans.

wundayatta's avatar

Such systems invite game playing. You exaggerate the amount of time things took. You turn social calls into client calls. Drinks at the bar become sales leads.

This is especially true when management sets unrealistic goals. It becomes a nasty cycle. Management sets an unrealistic goal. Employees stretch the truth to meet those goals. Management sees employees all reaching the goals, and sets the bar even higher.

Another factor leading to inaccurate appraisals is a kind of “keep up with the Joneses” thing. Employees see another employee appear to do an excellent job, and they feel pressure to match that person, and so they use every trick they can to make their performance look better.

After a while, these reports are all a pipe dream. Management makes plans based on inaccurate information. It’s like what happened to our economy, except companies were stretching the truth. Of course, they may have been stretching the truth because all their employees were stretching the truth, because management put unrealistic pressure on them to perform in the first place.

So, to the extent that the data collected from such systems is garbage, I think they are useless. This is not to say that many employees are not honest. But you don’t necessarily know which ones are or aren’t unless you’re paying attention. If you’re paying attention, you don’t need a performance appraisal system, because you know what people are doing.

To my mind, these things are sheer laziness by management. They want to collect data more easily to prove they are doing a good job, and so they invent these systems that allow everyone to fudge the truth while pretending nothing of the sort is going on.

To my mind, there is a much better system. You set tasks for your employees with reasonable time horizons, and either they get it done, or they don’t. If they don’t, either there’s a good reason, or an incompetent reason. You know who isn’t doing well when their work comes back, time after time, needing correction. You know when they are slower than others to do something (although this can lead to reverse pressure to conform to a slower pace).

I believe in good service. Do everything you can to help your customers. Be as organized as you can be. I try to train my employees to have the same attitude. Of course, I try to hire folks with that attitude in the first place. Customer service can actually win out over competence.

I believe in creativity. I believe that good ideas can come from anywhere. I do not believe that time spent not doing official work is wasted. I consider it to be official goof off time, which often results in a win somewhere down the road. I used to goof off surfing the internet way before it became the net. Guess who they all came to when the internet became everything? Most of my outside interested have proven useful at one time or another for one employer or another.

The kind of thing I’m talking about gets destroyed by performance appraisal systems. PA can not account for supposed down time. It only counts work time, and it works for people who can push and push and push, but it doesn’t work for creative people. If you fill your company with pushers, you will end up slowly falling behind the companies that use creative people and let them free to do what they do.

Darwin's avatar

It is tedious and irritating, but it definitely can help keep employees and employers on the same page so work becomes more productive and more interesting. It is definitely a way to communicate to your supervisor when you are doing a good job and so deserve a raise or a promotion because it will help the company.

I don’t like it and it can be abused, but it can be a very valuable tool when done right, especially for creative jobs. When an employee has great freedom in doing their job sometimes supervisors don’t know what they have truly accomplished, and self-appraisal is one way to do this.

The best form for this (and the kind we used when I was a museum curator) was more of a series of essay questions about goals and accomplishments. It was NOT a count of how many tasks were done in a certain time frame, or how many widgets were sold in July by employee A versus employee B.

What Daloon is referring to above is what happens when management has such a system because they think they should or because they like having stuff to measure. What a good self-appraisal system should do is create a talking point, or a starting place for a conversation about ideas and goals.

In my case, we might have discussed what was rewarding or disappointing about creating a team to work together on an exhibit versus working in isolation, and should we change our approach to creating and expanding upon ideas? How should we improve our ways of finding out what people think of our exhibits? What is an area of local interest that needs to be explored for exhibit and programming ideas?

In my work place, the goals were set jointly by management and staff, and the self-appraisals helped us communicate what was important to each other.

wundayatta's avatar

Hmmm. I do that every opportunity I have. I’m always discussing with my employees opportunities to assess and improve things we do; and how I can make their jobs easier. I don’t have to wait for a performance appraisal to do that.

Darwin's avatar

@daloon – In an ideal world we wouldn’t have either, but everyone in our workplace had their own creative jobs to do, so often we were all off in our own little worlds, especially when working on something really big, such as designing our own part of a 30,000 square foot exhibit space. The biggest “department” had two people in it but the overall workplace had 52 people. The small and discrete points were covered in weekly meetings, things such as easier ways to order supplies, or when are we getting that good jigsaw, but the big philosophical stuff didn’t get aired as often. Sometimes an individual creative person could happily work away for weeks without discussing goals or processes.

laureth's avatar

My employer has a system that sounds virtually identical to the asker’s. In fact, we just had annual appraisals this month. We rate ourselves, and are in turn being rated by our peers, our direct reports, and our boss.

I usually grade myself a bit down, especially if I know the boss is pleased with my work. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than shot down.

I think the “goals” system doesn’t take into account some of the intangibles that people bring to their work, and turns people into numbers. My “goals” are a high quality check and a certain number of units per hour. I know my job. The HR woman who flew in from Corporate to introduce us to the then-new “goals” system asked us, “You know how you get done with work for a day and you wonder, ‘What have I really accomplished?’” It must be nice to have a day like that, I thought. I never “wonder what I accomplished that day.” I know exactly what I did.

I heard of a company that used to “outplace” (or was it still “fire” back then?) their bottom 10% of employees every year. It seems like quantifying our work in cvoncise, number-based charts would provide an effective means to do this. (In my company, when layoffs came recently, they did end up picking the lowest-accomplished people according to the “goals” system.) While I suppose fear and weeding is an excellent way to “promote excellence” in your company, I think it comes at a bit of expense to one’s soul.

VzzBzz's avatar

Waste of company time and supplies.

jackfright's avatar

I think it’s actually quite useful, not in terms of performance because of the reasons @daloon pointed out, but because it allows you gauge how far off each team member thinks s/he is from his/her seniors perspective.

so say we have jeremy write his own evaluation, then we compare that to his seniors evaluation of him, etc. from that we can see how close to, or far off the mark he is. if there are large discrepancies, we have a sit down and discuss them- i.e. if jeremy considers a project a success but his senior doesn’t. it allows for greater clarity and team alignment.

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