Taking the opportunity to share some of the more popular pieces from the eight years of Compensation Force archives. The interest in and trend (if indeed it is a trend) to ratingless performance systems is much talked about today - but the conversation has been out there for a number of years. Here's an earlier reflection of mine (originally published in May 2010) from the perspective of a mom and a youth sports coach.
The interwebs have been alight recently with debate - prompted by Samuel Culbert's new book Get Rid of Performance Reviews (which I posted about here) and Tara Parker-Pope's New York Times article Time to Review Workplace Reviews which discusses the toll performance reviews take on worker health - on the topic of performance management.
Some of this discussion, quite frankly, brings me back to the days of my kids' youth sports and policies of many leagues (which likely endure today) favoring "no score" games and tournaments. While the parents and officials made a big deal about not keeping score during games and declaring everyone "a winner", the kids themselves almost always knew the details and discussed them freely among their teammates. They were disappointed, sometimes bitterly, when they lost and elated when they won, but they typically got past it quickly, as kids do, never mind the grownups and their efforts to reframe the whole business in the spirit of fairness and high self-esteem. As coach of several of these teams, I admit to being complicit in these arrangements.
I remember also realizing that there was a lesson there, and it wasn't necessarily one that the kids needed to learn.
The lesson - I think - was on parenting. It wasn't our job to shield our children from the reality that they might be better suited to some activities and situations than others, that they might make mistakes and have to own and get past them, or even that they might encounter circumstances where someone else has the benefit of an unfair advantage. Our job was - and is - to teach them to appreciate their responsibilities and obligations as part of a team, to face their shortcomings in an honest but productive way, and to understand and channel their strengths in a direction that will pay off for them in a joyful and satisfying way.
At the risk of oversimplifying, it strikes me that there are parallels to the process - and challenges - of performance management. Few of us enjoy delivering or receiving the unhappy message about falling short of the team's expectations. And evidence suggests that doing it with both honesty and compassion takes skill and strength that few of us appear to possess. Just as there are no perfect parents, there are no perfect managers. But the fact that honest and compassionate performance management is difficult to do well doesn't mean that it isn't worth striving for.
To simply call for its abolishment is to disregard the good work that many managers, and organizations, are doing in guiding, coaching and (yes) appraising employees. So my vote is to acknowledge that we still have LOTS of work to do in this arena and to commit ourselves to continuous improvement going forward.
How about you?
Image: Creative Commons Photo "One-Two-Three" by bbp