Performance Appraisals – how to de-motivate an employee in five minutes or less

Office workers putting their thumbs up for positive results

It’s that time of year.

The time you find out how well you did during the prior year…according to an undisclosed sliding scale determined by personality types in charge of such things.

I’m not complaining about me here. I did ok. Perhaps even beyond ok.

However, every year there is at least one story that prevails above all others. Someone got knocked lower in their ranking as their appraisal climbed higher in the organization. Typically it is a high performing employee. Maybe not the top performer, but one that puts in just as much effort or more than the top performer. I’ve been there, done that. You know – when you are initially given a high rating and then because it is time for someone else to get a raise, or because they just don’t have enough to go around…they rate you lower. 

Really? So, you change the reality of my performance to fit the reality of the purse strings?

What if you got above expectations and you are notched down to “Meets Expectations?” How does that make you look when you have to share with a new boss, or more likely a new employer, what type of performer you are? And, throughout this devastating decline into low performance, you were actually minding your own business working your rear off into the later hours of the night.

The system is broken. It’s broke-ness impacts self-esteem. It impacts performance. It inhibits continuous learners from wanting to grow and contribute more. It turns innovative, motivated people into Dilbert drones.

Here’s a thought – separate the performance score from the purse strings.

Or, assign what projects/tasks/behaviors are worth and develop performance outcomes associated with those numbers. Perhaps there won’t be as many surprises or strange modifications by leadership boards as appraisals move up the chain.

Even so, it really isn’t about the money. At the end of the day, isn’t it just about being appreciated? Being allowed to work on something great? Start us off with a good salary and we’ll keep performing if you just support us with pats on the back and meaningful work.

Haven’t read Drive by Daniel Pink? A great read about what really motivates us. Check it out.

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