Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 12, Issue 4;   January 25, 2012: A Review of Performance Reviews: Blindsiding

A Review of Performance Reviews: Blindsiding

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

Ever learn of a complaint about you for the first time at your performance review? If so, you were blindsided. Reviews can be painful. Here are some guidelines for making them a little fairer.
The field of vision of a horse

The field of vision of a horse. View a larger image. Horses have blind spots, front and rear. In their natural habitat of open range, they manage quite well, but in human-dominated environments, such as cities and villages, their blind spots leave them vulnerable. This vulnerability has given them a reputation for startling easily — a reputation that is likely undeserved, because it's probably due to the mismatch between the human environment and their natural habitat.

In the organizational environment, managers who choose to withhold from their subordinates information regarding reviews can, in effect, create blind spots for their subordinates. Those blind spots make their subordinates vulnerable, and once the pattern is evident, their subordinates can become skittish, exhibiting signs of stress arising from an acute sense of vulnerability. Performance declines are then inevitable. Image courtesy U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

A vignette common during performance review season goes like this. Michelle Manager visits Sam Subordinate's cube and says, "Morning Sam, come to my office and we'll do your review." Sam is taken by surprise. Arriving together in Michelle's office, Michelle says to Sam, "Have a seat," and hands him a two- or three-page document that he's seeing for the first time. "Have a look," she says. "Tell me what you think."The field of vision of a horse

Sam reads eagerly at first, but slowly realizes that, far from singing his praises, this document is an indictment. It's a list of grievances he's never heard before. Many are gross distortions and some are just plain false. His emotions take over. He feels accused, hurt, and angry.

"There's a space at the end for your signature," says Michelle. "Signing doesn't mean you agree with every little thing, it just means you've read it." Defeated, Sam signs. The document enters his personnel folder.

Sam has been blindsided. Feeling helpless, he has surrendered. His personnel record now contains yet another review filled with falsehoods and distortions.

Blindsiding was once much more common than it is today, because law is developing regarding employee rights. The law is in a primitive state, and civil suits are still the main deterrent to performance review abuses. But a consensus is emerging about appropriate processes for conducting performance reviews. Here are the basics:

Regular scheduling
Reviews of employees in good standing occur at regular intervals — quarterly, semi-annually, or, at a minimum, annually. Employees who are on notice for performance issues might be reviewed more frequently.
Fair notice
The subordinate receives fair notice of review meetings. Subordinates with heavy travel schedules are reasonably accommodated.
Written documentation
Everything of significance is captured in writing, and signed by supervisor and subordinate to indicate not agreement, but acknowledgement that the document was presented. The two parties can negotiate the content, but each can also append their own views without editing by the other.
Opportunity to prepare
The subordinate receives a A consensus is emerging about
appropriate processes for conducting
performance reviews
draft of the document far enough in advance to allow for preparation of rebuttals or appendices. The subordinate can prepare for the review on company time, at full compensation.
No hidden standards
The review can fault the employee for failing to perform to standards only if those standards were previously documented. If a standard is revised between reviews, the employee is informed of the change, and has time to adapt to the new standard. At the next review, that revised standard applies only to employee performance during the period the standard was active.
Fairness
All standards are fairly applied to all subordinates equally, without discrimination as to race, sex, age, religion, ethnicity, or any other demographic factor.

How did you conduct you last review? Was it fair? Were any of these guidelines violated? First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Social Transactions: We're Doing It My Way  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

The Boott Cotton Mills and Eastern CanalThere Is No Rumor Mill
Rumors about organizational intentions or expectations can depress productivity. Even when they're factually false, rumors can be so powerful that they sometimes produce the results they predict. How can we manage organizational rumors?
Apollo 13 Shoulder PatchFilms Not About Project Teams: I
Here's part one of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to be about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
An appealing plate of pasta (not what I ate that evening)If Only I Had Known: II
Ever had one of those forehead-slapping moments when someone explained something, or you suddenly realized something? They usually involve some idea or insight that would have saved you much pain, trouble, and heartache, if only you had known.
The Night Café, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888Changing the Subject: II
Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
Space Shuttle Columbia during the launch of its final missionHow to Reject Expert Opinion: II
When groups of decision-makers confront complex problems, and they receive opinions from recognized experts, those opinions sometimes conflict with the group's own preferences. What tactics do groups use to reject the opinions of people with relevant expertise?

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Child's toys known as Chinese finger trapsComing April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 1.
A portion of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.