Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead

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This is the first book to offer specific suggestions on how to replace performance appraisals with a more effective system that emphasizes teamwork and empowerment. The authors suggest a variety of new alternatives that produce better results for both managers and employees.
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Overview


This is the first book to offer specific suggestions on how to replace performance appraisals with a more effective system that emphasizes teamwork and empowerment. The authors suggest a variety of new alternatives that produce better results for both managers and employees.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Coens (a labor attorney) and Jenkins (a human resources consultant) argue that the process of performance appraisal frustrates most employees and managers who use it. Rather than modifying this process, they offer suggestions on how to replace performance appraisals with other approaches that emphasize teamwork, empowerment, and spirituality. Individual chapters focus on five key functions of appraisal<-->coaching, feedback, development, compensation, and legal documentation<-->and present alternative ways to meet these objectives. Case studies are used to illustrate the implementation of these new approaches. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781576750766
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/17/2000
  • Pages: 338
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Letting Go of a Hopeless Ritual

Part One Why Appraisals Backfire: The Fatal Flaws 1
Good Intentions That Never Deliver 11
The Real Goal: Improving the Performance of the Organization 33
Appraisal as a Rating Tool: Fair or Foul? 53

Part Two What to Do Instead: Five Functions of Appraisal 71
Coaching Employees in the New Workplace 73
Feedback That Makes a Difference 115
How Do We Pay People Without Appraisals? 153

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2001

    George Bush and Jack Welch Should Read this Book!

    This could well be the most important book ever written on the controversial subject of performance evaluation. I can only hope it will also become the most influential. President Bush, do you want to improve the Military? Make your first investment in that effort a copy of this for every senior officer and senior enlisted person in the armed services. Jack Welch, would you like to move GE¿s workforce up from its current 2.7 Sigma level? Read this book with an open mind. Abolishing Performance Appraisals should be a must-read for every CEO and HR executive in any company still trying to use a performance appraisal scheme as a crutch for poor leadership. Performance appraisal continues to be a problem in large and small organizations. Careers are foreshortened or destroyed, productivity is sabotaged; and long-term organizational strategies end up being sacrificed for short-term ¿stretch¿ goals. People end up working at cross purposes, and suboptimizing the business. No one involved in the process likes it; large and small companies spend a good deal of money attempting to improve their current systems, to no avail¿the improved systems are fraught with the same fatal flaws as the systems they replace, because they are based on the same bad assumptions. The authors examine many of the faulty assumptions behind most appraisal systems (i.e., ¿One appraisal process can effectively serve several functions at the same time; appraisal processes can objectively and reliably evaluate and assess individual performance; inspecting individuals leads to improvement, and improving individual performance improves organizational performance). They present a very logical case contradicting each of the traditional assumptions, and back their case up with research and some very convincing case studies. The authors don¿t merely make a case against appraisal, however. Throughout the book, they offer alternative, more practical alternatives to each of the traditional assumptions. Once the case for performance appraisal is thoroughly debunked, they offer a roadmap for creating an alternative system aimed at satisfying real organizational needs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2000

    First step to improving the workplace

    This book will not disappoint the reader, but if you have just spent time implementing your company's appraisal system, it will make you stop and think about why you are doing it at all. Coens and Jenkins evaluate each and every 'assumption' we use in defense of performance appraisals, and help us to see clearly that what we get from appraisals is not what we are hoping for. They don't try to sell quick replacements, but offer ways to accomplish what we really want out of appraisals through developing brand new assumptions in the workplace -- such as trusting employees, and focusing on improving systems and processes to improve organizational performance. A resource that will enlighten all well-meaning managers and employees who think we have to have the annual performance appraisal, but are always disappointed in the results!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2001

    Abolish Bureaucracy to Encourage Improvement!

    This book has more perspectives and detail about the problems with performance appraisals than you would have learned about in 20 years. As a result, the suggestion to abolish performance appraisals comes as no surprise (especially since that's the title) and the logic is appealing, as well. To get rid of performance appraisals will be difficult in most companies, because people will not be able to imagine what the alternatives can be. The book's rich detail about the problems, and then the many suggestions in it for how to develop replacements fill those gaps. If you are like me and dislike performance appraisals, get this book to help you to migrate away from them. Since I never liked performance appraisals, I abolished them years ago in our consulting firm. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the mechanisms that I had substituted for performance appraisals were consistent with the authors' recommendations. I am a big believer in complexity science, and like to see organizations operating in more free form ways. You have to eliminate strait jackets like performance appraisals to get to that point. The thrust of the alternative is to place the responsibility with each person in the company for their own development, but be sure that they get access to the resources and feedback they need to improve. This is also very revealing because people vary enormously in how interested they are in improving. If you put the ball in their court, you will learn a great deal about the future potential of the people in the organization. Some will try very little. Some will try a lot. Many will not follow through. But you will have opened a doorway through which the most motivated to improve can go as far as they want. That's terrific! The only part of the book that I disagreed with is that the authors think that all performance measures are bad. In my experience and in my research, I find that performance measures that people set for themselves that they think are important are extremely valuable for focusing and stimulating performance. The authors seem to think that employees will always focus on goals that help their little area rather than the whole company. That occurs only when people don't understand how the whole business works. That's an education issue, not a performance measurement issue. After you have read and begun to apply this book, I suggest that you also think about where else in your organization you have bureaucratic practices that stifle innovation, hurt morale, and slow down progress. Then, use this book as a model for how to undo those harms as well. In many companies, processes for controlling capital expenditures and authorizing new product development often have these effects. As a result, little experiments are inhibited that the company can afford to fail in by processes designed to keep from making big mistakes with billions. Free up everyone to feel good about themselves, to become better, and to cooperate more freely to improve the organization! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2001

    Appraisals belong 6 feet under

    Perhaps no other workplace topic is so hotly debated, so universally loathed, so burdened with anxiety than that annual ritual known as the job performance evaluation. More than one supervisor has said it would be easier to write one's own obituary than tackle the yearly job review. This book has a simple way of addressing this task. Don¿t do them in the first place! The authors argue that performance appraisals are not working in ways they are intended to ¿ to reward, motivate and improve work forces. Instead, such performance reviews demoralize employees and frustrate supervisors. The primary problem, the authors state, is that using one process for so many complex activities (although filled with good intentions) is idealistic as well as dispiriting. And, they continue, no amount of tweaking can solve the problem. The only true solution is to put appraisals to rest. Human Resources professionals will find this book most useful in determining how they can lead the charge in breaking away from tradition and moving closer to become a more progressive company. However, it is this challenge that will make the reader¿s head hurt. The book is well written and thoughtfully done. It is divided into three parts with the first two addressing why appraisals fail and examining the core reasons behind performance reviews. These first eight chapters depict clearly that appraisals are flawed with destructive, though unintended effects. All of author¿s arguments make sense ¿ common sense ¿ to an extent where one finds itself pledging never to conduct a performance appraisal again. It is the third part of the book that provides the reader with headaches. Although there is a sixteen-step process for making the transition from traditional performance appraisals to alternatives, there is no solution. As early as the Preface, the authors give ample warning about the endpoint by stating over and over again that there is no one model that answers all the questions they have identified. They state each company must find its own solution. In addition, they bring to reality that there is no shortcut. In fact, their recommended method usually takes two years to implement encompassing much effort, time, and cost. The concepts of this book, in a nutshell, are: getting to the underlying assumption of why performance appraisals are used and create a new way of thinking to change current strategies and systems; encouraging supervisors to provide honest feedback and communication to employees by maintaining daily, two-way communication; empowering employees to be responsible for themselves ¿ for their careers, for receiving feedback, and holding themselves accountable for the work to be done; giving leaders the freedom to choose for themselves the most effective ways o f working with people; moving away from and individual performance company to a organizational improvement company; and creating a culture where the company provide all of its people the tools, training, resources, and environment to do all these things mentioned. The difficulty an HR professional will face in their industry is winning over top management to support these initiatives. Usually, management holds fast to traditions. Firms with proactive leaders may find some resistance at first but should be able to garner support easily. This book encourages you to be a witness to the performance appraisal funeral. Join other progressive companies that understand the ¿critical importance of working from new thinking.¿ You won¿t be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2001

    Anything not worth doing is not worth doing well.

    I've just finished reading Abolish Performance Appraisals and I want to say what a wonderful job the authors have done. This work will go down as the start of the paradigm shift in how people are treated at work. The research and real life examples show how important this subject is. Dr. Deming would be very proud of what Coens and Jenkins have done. I am recommending this book to everyone I know in business. Everyone who has ever been through a performance apprasial is indebted to this work. I predict this book will be the conerstone of a new and better way for American companies to teat employees and restore pride and joy in work. Thank you for a job well done.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2001

    It's Time!

    Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins get to the heart of the matter regarding performance appraisal in the workplace. No one feels good about the process, and yet it persists--mostly because companies have no idea what to do instead. Coens and Jenkins offer specific solutions to the problems of review. I highly recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2000

    Dignity in the Workplace

    This is an important and well written book. The authors, Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins, think it is time for organizations to begin treating employees like the adults that they are. There is too much patriarchal and paternalistic hand-holding, and way too much time spent monitoring, evaluating and judging individuals. The authors advocate dropping the ritual of performance appraisal as a vital step, in itself, and because of the 'undercurrent' that appraisal represents, towards freeing the human spirit in organizations. This undercurrent 'hangs like a cloud, pervades the workplace atmosphere....' It is the 'personnel policies, human resource practices, and most importantly, the organization's unseen culture (values and beliefs) about people. It sends messages that people are not interested in working or improving the organization, messages that people are children who need to be directed and controlled in an atmosphere much like a traditional school.' This is powerful stuff. Coens and Jenkins want us to get busy on working together towards improving processes and the system of delivering value to our customers, and give up the quest for finally pinpointing, once and for all, who the '1's, '2's, '3's, etc. are in the organization. They want us to quit thinking that a person's value and performance can somehow be reduced to a number. They explain how this is a fallacy and illusion, given the impossibility of separating out the individual's contribution from the contribution of the system or environment that she works in, inherent measurement and judgment biases, and organizational politics. More importantly, such reductionism is degrading and demoralizing to the individual. And 'we trivialize an individual's work, often involving heart and soul, from something unique and wonderful into a cold and sterile numerical rating that purportedly signifies the person's total contribution.' The approach the authors take is to first surface, then examine, and ultimately attack the assumptions underlying appraisal, and then to build alternatives from 'newer, more hopeful assumptions.' They are thorough and convincing in making the case to abolish performance appraisal. W. Edwards Deming, who mentored Jenkins, was often asked, 'But if we eliminate performance appraisal, then what will we replace it with?' He would reply, 'Try leadership.' Whereas Coens and Jenkins would surely support such a true and succinct response, they also offer specific guidelines and methodology for an organization to wean itself from the nonproductive and harmful anachronism of performance appraisal. For example, they describe how to effectively 'debundle' management concerns, such as motivation, coaching, counseling, retention, discharge, goal setting, pay, promotion, and discipline, which are often packaged as part of the appraisal process. I highly recommend this book for anyone who values dignity, respect, and trust in the workplace, and who believes that holding such values is crucial in striving for true organizational excellence.

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