10 Reasons why Appraisals FAIL

In 2015 a survey of senior business leaders by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development on attitudes to appraisals reported that 73% of leaders considered annual appraisals ineffective.

John Timpson in his book Upside Down Management reveals that “we abandoned appraisals 25 years ago and have survived happily ever since” they were replaced with a culture “where everyone can raise problems and talk about their future with their Boss” and one assumes vice versa – the Boss can have similar conversations with their staff.

Appraisals are found in all sorts of situations:

  • The act of assessing something or someone – such as a house survey
  • Impartial analysis and evaluation conducted according to established criteria to determine the acceptability, merit, or worth of an item – such as a jewellery valuation
  • A meeting in which an employee discusses his or her progress, aims, and needs at work with his or her manager or employer – simply put as a conversation

My own straw poll of a dozen SME business owners revealed that only 25% actually do appraisals, 17% have allowed them to lapse and over half of them have never done an appraisal.

Alarmingly but not surprisingly some of the reasons given for not doing an appraisal are conversation related –  not wanting to upset people; avoiding confrontation and not wanting to open a can of worms.

My first appraisal took place once a year between me and my Manager and was a hand written performance review of six factors essential to effective performance in my role, and from memory lasted the best part of half a day. Fast forward 30 years and my appraisals were quarterly between me and my CEO and lasted no more than an hour. There was a time in between when I was being appraised online, on 22 job relevant competencies by 13 “colleagues” whose feedback was anonymous.

A quick calculation on the back of an envelope suggests that during my time as a company employee I received over 60 appraisals and conducted over 675  – some were good, some were not so good, and only a few were memorable.

Conducting an effective appraisal requires demanding personal skills such as the ability to listen, show empathy, think objectively and communicate clearly.

Appraisals in my experience often fail for simpler reasons, than a skills deficiency.

  1. Too long or too short
  2. Infrequent
  3. No feedback
  4. Fixation with weaknesses
  5. Personal bias (positive as well as negative)
  6. Inconsistent standards
  7. Poor scoring criteria
  8. Unachievable objectives
  9. Appraising irrelevancies
  10. Avoid your office – use a neutral venue, as it creates a more relaxed atmosphere for your conversation.


Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

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Posted in Appraisals, communication, Company Culture, Engagement, People performance
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