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Appraisals are dead…Long live Crucial Conversations

Source |  LinkedIn : By Kathryn Bradley


It’s that time of year again… For many, the weeks and months following the holiday season are not a time for forward-looking resolutions. Rather, It’s a period of enforced retrospective involving trawling back over the last 12 months to dredge up evidence which can be applied to some hazy objectives, set during an equally stressful period 12 months ago, many of which now seem irrelevant or unattainable. As if this wasn’t stressful enough, for those with line management duties the period becomes a whole lot more intense with the time-limited imperative of completing the same task for any number of direct reports. Add to the mix the fact that in most organisations these conversations are directly linked to pay and reward, and you have a potent recipe for frustration, conflict and disengagement.

The irony is, frustrations about appraisals get vented from all angles; staff, managers and HR alike. Everybody, it seems, is in the same boat, sharing thatall-too-familiar sinking feeling. We’re becoming increasingly conscious of the inefficiencies (and in the worst cases the harm) of the annual performance appraisal. Not only is it time-intensive and arguably inaccurate (reliant on consistent implementation and seriously exposed to subjectivity and bias), the emphasis on wrapping up a whole year of successes, failures and learnings in a single meeting (or worse, in a number of boxes) can easily make the appraisal conversation a source of dread and frustration. What’s more, in his Ted Talk “The Puzzle of Motivation”, Dan Pink goes as far as making the convincing case that traditional performance management having entirely opposite effect to the one desired by reducing productivity and motivation.

 It’s not surprising then that many organisations (Accenture and Deloitte being two recent notable examples) are looking to transform or even do away with the annual appraisal in favour of more regular dialogue between staff and managers. Whilst change may be on the horizon, annual appraisals remain a reality for many of us. And a pretty imminent reality at that! So what, if anything, can be done to ensure these conversations are not only less stressful, but also work in our favour? Performance conversations need not be a thing of dread; something to be put off wherever possible.

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