The annual review reveals more about the manager’s performance than the employee’s performance (part 2)
In my previous article, I discussed how the annual review process reveals more about the manager than the employee. The annual review’s text may be about the employee’s performance, but what really is powerful is the subtext – the manager’s practices as a manager.
Here are some more examples of what kinds of things are revealed about a manager in an employee performance review:
1. The lack of detail
The manager usually has a comment box in an employee review form. If the manager does not write much in it, what does that tell you? Probably that the manager has no idea what the employee did over the course of the year. Compare the following:
“Joe had a great year. He met all of this goals and is well-liked on the team.”
“Tiffany created a new system that was implemented across the team to improve communication, streamline processes, and create more accountability. She identified the largest issues facing quality teamwork, and her efforts in this area contributed to a better team understanding of the deliverables and timelines.”
In the second example, the manager appears to know what Tiffany did. In the first example, it is not clear whether the manager even knows who Joe is, and what he does.
2. The lack of discussion of improvement
One of the tasks of a manager is to facilitate an ever improving team atmosphere and capability. Or, at the minimum, get it to an acceptable level and keep it there. But what if you never see any language that expresses any effort to improve the team or its members?
Something like, “At the beginning of the year, Andy and I discussed improving his follow-through on resolving quality issues in his work. We worked together to identify how we can improve in this area, and during the year, Andy had many fewer issues in this area. In fact, Andy is now a team champion on how to assure our team’s work output is both timely and with quality.” This indicates a drive for improvement.
Instead we often see the flat, “Andy has quality issues.” In this case, we quickly learn that the manager sees no responsibility in improving Andy’s quality issues. This indicates a quality issue of the manager.
3. The disconnect from goals
Many performance reviews have a section that require employees and managers to compare the actual results of the work with the goals established at the beginning of the review period. It is often observed that managers will not comment on these goals and whether or not they were met by the employee, and instead focus on personality elements. Perhaps you’ve seen something like: “Joan brings a lot of fun to the team!” “We love Harry’s sense of humor and positive attitude.” That’s on the positive side. On the negative side, it might be, “Marty is always late for meetings” or “Patrick could improve his attitude” or “Maurice could be more helpful with other team members.”
If the manager writes something that is not connected to the goals and does not reveal her opinion as to whether or not the employee met the goals, we learn that the manager didn’t take the goals seriously in the first place, or doesn’t know whether they were met.
4. Comparison of goals across team members
Sticking to the topic of goals, one exercise is to compare the goals across the manager’s team members, which are usually documented on the annual review. Are they the same? Do they appear to lead to a team strategy? Or do they appear written independently by the individual members of the team? One team member may have tons of goals, and another may have hardly any. Are one set of goals very crisp and another set of goals unformed and vague? That can happen if the manager is not taking the goal-writing process seriously, and has not provided input.
5. Expectation of teamwork
The manager is ostensibly a leader of a team, not a series of individuals. However, the annual review typically has very little commentary about how team members helped one another. If the manager does not have discussions somewhere in the review (goals, what the team achieved vs. what the individual achieved) that identify the quality of teamwork, then we know that this is not a priority of the manager. Is this the kind of management practices we are looking for?
My next article will discuss even more examples of when a manager reveals more about herself on the employee’s performance review.
Do you have examples of when the review says more about the manager than the employee? Send them my way!