Grading Degrades Performance LO17513

Alan Mossman (
Mon, 23 Mar 1998 06:25:15 -0500

Replying to LO17449 --

I have still to be convinced that Performance Appraisal as it is generally
practiced is congruent with an LO. Fear in any organisation reduces the
ability of organisation members to learn. Appraisals engender fear (in
appraisers as much as appraisees in my experience). Peter Scholtes seems
to offer a way forward.

In LO17478 Srinath Srinivasa wrote:

>I would be very interested to know if anyone has been addressing the
>problem of grading (or Employee Ranking for that matter), from a
>fundamental, systemic level.

It seems to me that Peter Scholtes has.

I am currently reading Peter Scholtes excellent new book
"The Leader's Handbook: a guide to inspiring your people and
managing the daily workflow"
(McGraw Hill 1998 ISBN 0-07-058028-6).

He devotes a whole chapter (p. 293 ff.) to "Performance without

Early in the chapter he cites the following assumptions as
underpinning performance appraisal:
o evaluation will improve an employees performance
o the employee being evaluated has control over the results
o the employees individual contribution can be discerned from
the contributions of the system and other managers and workers
in the system
o all processes with seemingly identical equipment, materials,
training, etc. are in fact identical
o the standards of evaluation are are related to factors demonstrably
important to the business and its customers
o the standards are reasonable and achievable
o each system in which an employee works is stable and capable of
delivering the expected results
o the evaluation covers performance over the entire cycle of
evaluation, not just the period recallable by recent memory
o all evaluators are consistent with each other
o each evaluator is consistent from one employee to the next.

Are all these assumptions necessary for appraisal ?
Are they sufficient -- are there any missing ?

Are they all met ?

in LO17489 Richard Karash wrote:

>My conclusion: Grades and Evals aren't absolute... They are just one
>person's opinion. Or one measure. Listen to them, put them in context with
>other inputs. Try to be self-reflective, self-aware and responsible. But,
>these aren't absolute.

Rick seems to acknowledge here that in his experience not all the
assumptions are met and that we should therefore give adults "kneepads"
or other protective clothing to enable them to cope with the slings and
arrows of a defective system.

Rick gained from his arbitrary F

Many, as he acknowledges, do not. The issues are usually not so clear

It is easy to write

>these aren't absolute.

How easy is it to believe when your boss says it and you know/feel s/he
has "the system" behind her. When your salary is linked to it. When
your future within the company is based on it. When if things go pear
shaped in the organisation your job may depend on it.

>Now, this explanation might be helpful to adults. But, until kids are
>mature enough to understand this... But, What about adults? Don't we have
>work to do to insure that adults in the workplace understand this?

Why do you want to support a system that is based on premises like people
(staff, employees):
o cannot be trusted
o don't want to work or to accept responsibility or to carry their
share of the load
o don't want to learn or improve. they want to be left alone
o are withholding their best efforts and can be induced to do better
only through incentives (carrots and sticks) imposed from the outside.
(Scholtes 1998, 297)

Returning to Shrinath's question, Scholtes does offer an alternative to
performance appraisal by unpacking the services and benefits that
performance appraisal is supposed to deliver and designing a system
specific to that benefit or service. There are 12 in all, complete with a
number of examples from US organisations. It is not appropriate to go
into them here -- the book is accessible, easy to read and challenging.

[the reference to kneepads comes from a social simulation developed in
the late 60s by Bill and Wendy Harpe of the Blackie Community Arts
Project in Liverpool. In order to simulate different levels of class in
society some could only perambulate on all fours, some on their knees and
others with their feet tied -- the bosses and the aristocracy had full
use of their limbs of course. The key function of the social workers was
to provide those in most need with knee pads.]



Alan Mossman mail The Change Business Ltd 19 Whitehall STROUD GL5 1HA UK 01453 765611 N.B. new fax: 01453 763083

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