Alvah Parker

Article Summary:

Why you want to impliment a plan of continuous feedback and appraisals versus a quarterly or annual appraisal.

Appraisals: The Advantages of Continuous Feedback

I can't help remembering the angst that came at appraisal time when I worked in Corporate America. This was the time that people were spending hours writing up their accomplishments for the previous year. Managers it seemed only remembered what happened in the last month or two. Evaluations were done on a year's worth of work. If you wanted your manager to remember the many good things you did earlier in the year, he/she needed to be reminded!

Appraisal time is dreaded by both managers and employees. In the 15 years that I worked in the sales and marketing division I think I actually saw my evaluation 3 or 4 times. Yes, I was supposed to sign it every year but I rarely had the opportunity. I'd usually ask my manager for a copy in February or March. Most of the time he would say it wasn't finished yet. I'd persist for 3 or 4 months and then give up.

When I became a manager myself I wrote my share of evaluations. I did deliver feedback to many people who resisted anything negative and in fact often got angry about it. I began to understand why managers hate appraisal time and why my appraisals were rarely shared with me!

As an employee I learned to write down my accomplishments during the year so I wouldn't forget any. I also saw the need to underscore them with my manager at the time that they happened. As a manager I found it more beneficial to give feedback all through the year so the appraisal process became less contentious.

Caring firms learn to do the appraisal process year round. Giving feedback on both good and poor performance helps the firm and the employee grow. Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson in their book The One Minute Manager talk about catching someone doing something right and praising them for it. When was the last time you congratulated an employee for doing a great job?

A manager needs help an employee by explaining to the person what isn't working. Recently I was told about an associate attorney who had worked for a partner on a project. When the project was completed the associate assumed the partner liked her work since the partner took it and never made any comments on it. The associate was terribly upset when several months later the partner told her that she (the partner) was disappointed in the associate's work. To be effective feedback has to be given at the time that job is done not 3 months later. It also needs to be specific (I am disappointed that you didn't proof read this document.) and not personal (Your work is sloppy.). The feedback gives the employee guidance on how to improve.

We want employees to be able to do a variety of tasks. If we penalize them when they make mistakes they will be reluctant to try anything new. The best way to learn is by doing. Managers need to make allowances when the person lacks experience. The work isn't going to be perfect the first few times.

Clients frequently tell me that they may as well do everything themselves rather than spend the time to instruct their employee. If the job is going to be done only once and never again than perhaps my clients are right but if the job is repetitive it is worth the investment of time to teach another employee to do it. Training and feedback are both a big investment of time but the effort is worth it and both manager and employee will be happier--especially at appraisal time.

Take Action

1. Start keeping track of your accomplishments for this year. At the end of the year you will be amazed at all you have achieved! The list may even inspire you to do more.

2. Begin to notice how many people you interact with during a day. Remember to give them feedback when they do a good job for you. How many people can you "catch doing something right"?

3. If you manage someone who is starting a new project, include feedback sessions into the project schedule and develop a way to honestly critique the work.

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor for attorneys and Career Transition Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. To subscribe send an email to join-roadtosuccess@
go.netatlantic.com. Parker's Value Program enables clients to find a way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. She is both a Practice Advisor and Coach to attorneys, sole practioners, and works with people in transition to find a fulfilling career. Alvah is found on the web at www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.

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