Why You Need to Understand the Psychology of a Performance Appraisal

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

There is a ‘psychology’ of a Performance Appraisal that is important to understand, so that you’re appropriately armed and prepared when it’s your turn.

The greatest influential factor of the psychology of Performance Appraisal is if your Appraiser is your Manager, or an Independent. You will need different strategies depending on who is conducting your appraisal.

Your Appraiser is Your Manager

When your Appraiser is your Manager, then there is a joint interest in a great result. The ratings awarded in your Appraisal are the most important joint outcome. When you have been proven to perform well, this looks good on you. It also looks good on your manager. Your success is their success, and it is likely that your manager will be measured on your Appraisal results. Therefore your manager wants to give you the best ratings possible. But it isn’t as simple as your manager ticking all the boxes marked ‘excellent’. Firstly, how ratings are given across your wider organization must be as consistent as possible, and strict guidelines are provided. If your manager were to award the highest ratings to all your team members, HR will definitely smell a rat. Your manager must also justify your ratings amongst his/her peers. So even though your manager, as appraiser, wants to give you the highest ratings, he/she must also need to justify them, which means YOU have to justify them. See ‘Justify the Ass of Your Appraisal Ratings‘ below.

Your Appraiser is Independent

This works very differently. Your appraiser has a joint interest in a great Appraisal, but not the result. The successful processing of your Appraisal is the most important joint outcome. Your Appraiser will be measured on the consistency, accuracy and professionalism applied to all the Appraisals he/she conducts. There is unlikely to be any deep connection, or a previously agreed ‘Psychological Contract’ between you. Hence they are ‘independent’. There is no mutual-benefit in great ratings, other than to ensure that high-performance is accurately recorded. There is no schmoozing and subjectivity in these reviews! However, the added benefit of an Independent-led Performance Appraisal is that your ratings will be perceived as more ‘bonafede’, i.e. have maximum credibility.

Justify the Ass of Your Appraisal Ratings

You can influence the Psychology of your Performance Appraisal, no matter who adjudicates over it. By ‘justifying the ass’ of the ratings you believe you deserve. This takes preparation, but it will be worth it. This is what you must do: throughout your Appraisal Period, and just before it, gather up all the evidence you can that supports your desired ratings. Collect emails from people who you work with, gather documentation and reports, and review everything that you have done that supports your claims. You must create a compelling, rock-solid case based on evidence and supporting opinion from other people.

I don’t recommend you start this the day before your Appraisal, as it will probably take time to solicit the written views from your co-workers. You will also need to sift through the many emails you have in your mailbox to pull out the key ones that are in support. I also suggest three other things: 1) you maintain what I call a ‘swipe-file’ – a folder (could be physical, or an electronic folder) where you store this evidence throughout your Appraisal Period; 2) you perform a Self-Assessment on your performance against your objectives. Be ‘objective’ and reference the evidence; and 3) you send this folder to your appraiser one week before your Performance Appraisal, which will provide your Appraiser the time to read it, analyze it, and validate it.

Leave nothing to chance or discretion.

Are you preparing for your Performance Appraisal? Worried about it?

Then ask a question by making a comment below, or initiate a discussion in my Community Forums.

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