Friday, January 22, 2016

Appraisals - the reviews that we fake

The annual rituals (at some places they do it twice an year) at companies is an interesting exercise from external world but often executed in a boring way.

Intended goals of appraisals in general are:

  • Review the progress. Success, failure and any learnings to be made. Retrospect everything
  • Set the goals for next cycle
  • Pay revision and role changes.
  • Help management to plan the finances and projects/vision for the next cycle, next set of years.

What we usually do:

Manager pretends to be someone else (most often). He suddenly becomes a judge of the situation and the employee feels really hopeless because

  • Apply sandwitch model (praise him in the beginning and tell all bad things and then again praise him what he is good at to give him feel good factor).
  • Employee is told that he didn't deliver something not defined. 
  • If he has done something correctly,it is nothing great because he is supposed to do it.
  • Lot of lectures on what he should/shouldn't do.
  • His response to team/outside the team (vendors/clients) was not upto the mark, his communications need improvements.
  • Bla bla bla
What I would expect good manager to do:
  • Let the employee present his success and not successful tasks and the reasons for it.
  • Let the employee present his strengths and improvement areas.
  • Take inputs on how you(Manager) can improve. Employee's perception about certain experiences and how/why he would have wanted "you" to be.
  • Elicit the employee's professional goals from him and if he is not so sure, guide him on how he can set these goals.
  • Set realistic goals within the project/company and and how they could help employee's own goals.
  • Provide guidelines/vision and set up intermittant checkpoints to review the progress and adapt any changes in the goals 


What we are missing often is that this role play(manager pretending to be someone else) is not what may be required. I can not become someone else just in the review meeting. I as a manager need to be an example with my own deliverables and be a motivating leader for the team members to emulate or at least to take the positive spirit. 

I compare this with family relationships. If I pretend to be someone else are restrict my children, it doesn't help. I need to treat them as my friends and tell them the pros and cons of everything and take motivation from them. Many times my kids helped me to get over some bad experiences and some of their words and views changed the way I thought about a solution.

Manager is neither GOD nor priest. We don't need to be a one side judge.  For me a lead/manager is more a facilitator and help the employee realize the improvements needed and then in the regular life (after the appraisals meeting in day to day time) need to help the employee to focus on the goals and make decisions that could help him reach his goals. 

Many times employees do not know what they would need to reach their goals, unfortunately managers too do not know.  A good manager provides infrastructure, situations that would fit the employee to learn and deliver and love the work employee can long for, of course in the given context and within the limited boundaries.


Often managers becomes donkeys of doing so many mundane rituals (meetings, reports) that are highly unproductive and start wearing a different set of views resulting in immediate GAP with his/her associates.  This will continue. Most of the team members are more adaptive, because they need salary at the end of every pay period who don't adjust are found to be rebels and actions are taken.

Why an individual works so hard and becomes lead/manager and suddenly forgoes all his/her learning to do something that he was not prepared for (particularly in India your salary is linked with your designation and that drives people to crave for designations than real challenging work) is an interesting thing or for me, it is unfortunate thing.


You start becoming a  great leader when you find the goals that are worth living/dying for and you work your way to reach the goal. You help your team to help you to reach the goal so that you together with your team can reach the goal.

When you do not find the right goal, and try to leverage on the process alone to help you to take you to the place where it could (or there is no goal other than spending 8 hours doing something seemingly relevant). 

For me, it is about finding the right goal that you want to die for  and that drives everything else and  everything in the world helps you to reach your goal.