Harvard Is Wrong About Performance Appraisal. And, You Don’t Care ?

I stumbled upon an article in Harvard Business Review about appraisal – “Let’s Abolish Self Appraisal”. Totally shocked to read it.

The gist is –  Managers know the best. Since they know what rating to give, there is no need for self appraisal. Just pronounce the rating and close the meeting. In self appraisal, employees make false claims about their accomplishments.

The person who authored is a management consultant and wrote management books. Perhaps teaches at Harvard University too. The blog post even has few comments supporting him.  No wonder employee unhappiness is shooting through the roof and businesses are failing – globally.

What is the issue with this?

1. The concept of what appraisal really is wrongly understood by many

I am fortunate to have had few bosses with good management basics. They consistently said – Appraisal is a system for sync up between employee and the organization. The rating and pay hike are important, but come next. The most important aspect is to have the dialog and keeping the channel healthy.

Most employees who are equally concerned about the dialog as the rating. Some are more concerned about the dialog. It being the official platform, they want to express themselves. And seek the response of the manager. Most employees understand that there is rating normalization and manager may not be able to push everyone’s case during the normalization process.

Some of the employees had been explicit – What rating did you propose? What key data you put forth while presenting my case?

Once I explain that it was done and justify that system is fair, they accept. They may not be satisfied with it. But they understand. This process is the most important part of the annual exercise.

Bottom line is this: Appraisal is a system where employee and organization sync up. Self appraisal is employee view. and the appraisal’s comments are supervisor’s view. Sign off does not mean that employee agrees with the comments.

2. Smart Alecks at Harvard Do Not Understand This

Harvard has such a high reputation because the university is well networked with industry. It is numero uno in management.

The suggestion makes me doubt some of its foundation.

3. The world is going to implement what Harvard says

Lot of us hold Harvard and Harvard Business Review is high regard. We just accept the suggestions many times just because it is Harvard.

Some consultant will come and implement wrong ideas in organizations. They can justify the idea because Harvard said so. They may not have been human resource managers. Many consultants have not spent sufficient time in multiple roles at middle management. Consequently, there is no holistic view of the roles and how all the roles come together to form the organization. I have written a series about organization roles. I have written about the impact of wrong design here.

The middle management has to work through the wrong ideas and keep the show running.

4. Managers may have only limited data about the employee. Few times, managers learn about the accomplishments only in appraisal !

Biggest concern of the employees is how much the supervisor really knows about the work I have done. In most cases they are right. Some times accomplishments are not acknowledged. And somebody else gets acknowledged for the accomplishments of others  too.

Ok. We still need self appraisal. Now what?

This may not be the last suggestion you would ever get. There will be many smart recommendations. Best way to deal with it –

  • Run all the smart suggestions on performance management through your common sense.
  • If the test fails, reject the idea. Even if it comes from Harvard.
  • If members think their career is stagnated, direct them here.
  • Roman Konecny

    After carefully reading your and Harvard point of view, my common sense is on Harvard side.