Thursday, November 8, 2012
This Psychology Today article describes why performance appraisals don't work. The article is sketchier on what should be substituted.
There are some fundamental problems with negative criticism, regardless of whether we clothe it politely as "constructive." First, [Tony] Schwartz contends, criticism "challenges our sense of value. Criticism implies judgment and we all recoil from feeling judged." Indeed, psychologists such as Daniel Goleman contend that threats to self-esteem and sense of self-worth in the form of criticism can feel like threats to our survival.
Part of our resistance to positive reactions to negative feedback is the way our brains work. Neuroscientists have clearly identified that our brains are fundamentally protective, defensive mechanisms. If your ego and sense of self is threatened, your brain unconsciously will act to protect and defend, either actively or passively.
Nowhere does negative or constructive criticism appear more frequently than in performance reviews of employees. The prevailing theory is that criticism, which invariably is part of the performance review, will improve the employee's performance, and in addition the employee will positively welcome it. Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that the traditional performance appraisal as practiced in the majority of organizations today is fundamentally flawed, and incongruent with our values-based, vision-driven and collaborative work environments.