There seems to be a growing movement to end performance appraisals. A Google search of performance appraisals generates results like “Get Rid of the Performance Review…” “Abolishing Performance Appraisals” “…Scrap Employee Performance Reviews.”  Why? Opponents of it believe that it is a flawed system that needs to be removed from all organizations, but like one commenter had stated, getting rid of Performance Appraisals is like playing a game without keeping score. The reality is that no organization can effectively work without keeping score; therefore Performance Appraisals must stay.


Performance Appraisals can be an effective tool in reaching realistic outcomes, but those outcomes must be clear and understandable. The issue with performance appraisals is that the lines between what they are and what they are not have become blurred. In their book “Abolishing Performance Appraisals” Coen and Jenkins (2002) points out that organizations often bundle performance appraisals as a multi-functional tool. The problem arises when performance appraisals are overburdened with too many tasks. When one tool has too many tasks its intended purpose becomes confusing and even contradictory causing the performance appraisal to “lose its way.” So how do you help your lost performance appraisal find its way?

To start, we need to stop expecting performance appraisals to be something more than what they are.  There are two general reasons why we conduct performance appraisals in the first place; to objectively assess and document employees’ performances and productivity, and to provide coaching opportunities to employees. Any other expectation outside of this is unrealistic. Unrealistic expectations cause performance appraisals to appear impractical because  the employees are not able to achieve those certain expectations  which they were not intended to begin with.

Make it clear to your employees from the very beginning  the purpose or your  organization’s performance appraisals. For some reason employers tend to shy away from having this discussion early on.  Provide your employees from the very beginning of employment a copy of your performance appraisals. Also, provide an explanation of how employees are evaluated and what behaviors warrant what score. By doing this you have reduced the confusion that is typically associated with performance appraisals.

Finally,  assess your current appraisal system to see if it makes sense. I have come across a number of performance appraisals that just did not really seem to make any sense for the organization conducting the performance appraisal. There did not seem to be any realistic objectives associated with the appraisal and it was almost as if some of these organizations perform performance appraisals just because it’s something that organizations do.

Here are some practical things that can be done to improve the quality of performance appraisals

  • Avoid excessive repetition. Repeating the same topic/question more than twice starts to become wasteful and unnecessarily cumbersome.
  • Be cautious when asking employees to rate their own performance. Asking employees to rate their own performance, and then telling them if they are right or wrong can create feelings of resentment in your organization.
  • Focus on performance goals you’ve clearly discussed with the employee, preferably those that are consistent with the job description.
  • Train your managers or the individual who will conduct the appraisal to ensure that it is a reliable and valid assessment of performance.
  • Make sure there is plenty of opportunity to provide feedback. Good feedback either helps an employee learn how to do something better, or helps him or her understand what he or she needs to continue doing. There is never a circumstance  where feedback is not necessary.
  • Re-evaluate the tool on a regular basis ( at least once a year)

Evaluating your performance appraisal objectively is a rather challenging task, but for it to be an effective tool it must happen more frequently. To make sure you are getting this process done successfully contact ETC, and let us help your performance appraisal find its way back.

Erika Ofodirinwa, ETC

Coens.T., & Jenkins. M. (2002) Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why they backfire and what they do instead. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publisher, Inc.
Sandler.C., & Keefe.J. (2005) Performance Appraisal Phrase that work. Avon, MA : Adams Media, and F+W Publications Company
Fletcher. C.(2004) Appraisal and Feedback; Making Performance Review Work. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD House.