Fear of appraisals

Understanding issues and overcoming them

The appraisal interview can be summarised as a review of performance to date and a discussion about the future in terms of potential and development needs. So, like the Roman God Janus, it has two faces, one to look at the past and one to the future.

While performance appraisals are designed to improve employee performance and foster professional growth, they are not always well-received by everyone. Several reasons contribute to why some individuals may not appreciate the appraisal process. Here are five common reasons why people might not like appraisals:

1. Anxiety and Stress

Many employees experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety leading up to their performance appraisal. The fear of receiving negative feedback or facing potential criticism can create a sense of apprehension and discomfort, making the appraisal process an unpleasant experience.

Managers, in turn, are often fearful of the potential for conflict during a review meeting.  If performance is not coming up to scratch and they need to give negative feedback or if there is a potential discrepancy between the manager’s perception and the employee’s perception of performance, that could cause stress.

2. Subjectivity and Bias

Appraisals are susceptible to subjective judgments and biases, which can affect the fairness and accuracy of the evaluation process. Employees may perceive appraisals as unfair if they believe their performance is not assessed objectively or if their achievements are undervalued due to personal biases or office politics.

The risk of the “halo and horns effect” is when a manager allows one positive or negative situation to influence their whole evaluation of an employee. They may become either too lenient or too critical of the employee based on a single occurrence.   For example, the employee may have had a good year but the week before the appraisal may have done something wrong and is then given a poor appraisal.; no credit being given for the good work done previously. If this bias occurs, it can obviously lead to inaccurate and unfair performance reviews.

3. Lack of Regular Feedback

When feedback is only provided during annual or bi-annual appraisals, employees might feel a lack of consistent guidance and support. Without ongoing communication and constructive criticism, employees may find it challenging to understand their performance expectations or make necessary improvements, leading to frustration during the appraisal process.

It is important, therefore, to intersperse performance reviews with less formal one-to-ones, to maintain communication throughout the year.

4. Inadequate Preparation, Understanding or Follow-up

Managers who are not adequately prepared or trained to conduct appraisals effectively may fail to provide constructive feedback or guidance.

Employees may perceive the appraisal process as unproductive if their managers lack the necessary skills to offer meaningful insights and development opportunities, leading to a lack of trust in the process.

Lack of training could also mean the managers do not feel confident in carrying out reviews, so may try to avoid them altogether, or rush through them to get them over and done with.

Another issue is the following up of assurances made during the interview, for example carrying out developmental plans, offering training, job enrichment, etc.  If something is promised, it should be followed through.  Remember, do not promise what you cannot deliver.  It is important managers word their agreements carefully if they need to request approval for things such as training or job changes.

5. Lack of Alignment with Goals or Job Relevance 

If employees perceive the appraisal process as disconnected from the organisation’s goals or if the evaluation criteria do not align with their day-to-day responsibilities, they may question the relevance and purpose of the appraisal. When employees fail to see the connection between their performance and the company’s/team’s objectives, they may become disengaged and disinterested in the appraisal process.

Understanding these reasons can help organisations tailor their appraisal processes to address these concerns and create a more positive and constructive experience for their employees.

Training in Appraisals

The best way to overcome the fear of handling appraisals is to train your managers in how best to do them.  Training them can yield numerous benefits for both the managers and the employees.

For managers, training can provide valuable insights and techniques for effectively communicating performance feedback, setting realistic goals, and offering constructive guidance for employee development.

Equipping managers with the necessary skills through training can boost their confidence in conducting appraisals, leading to more meaningful and productive discussions that foster a positive work environment.

On the other hand, employees benefit from well-trained managers through receiving clear, constructive, and fair feedback that is conducive to their professional growth.  They also feel more able to raise concerns, highlight training and development needs, suggest improvements and talk about potential progression, as necessary.

Effective appraisals delivered well by trained managers promote a culture of transparency, trust, and open communication, allowing employees to understand their strengths and areas for improvement, align their goals with the organisation’s objectives, and ultimately enhance their performance and job satisfaction.

How we can help

For information on training and coaching to help support your managers to deliver meaningful appraisals, please contact Janet Baker on 07944 225290 or at [email protected] or fill in the contact form below.

Useful templates

If you do not currently have an appraisal system in place but would like to consider implementing one, acas has a series of appraisal forms which may be used as a basis for designing your own organisations, or we can help you develop one.  Here is the link:  https://www.acas.org.uk/appraisal-templates





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