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:

Ancient stairs at ruins in CambodiaThe True Costs of Indirectness
Indirect communications are veiled, ambiguous, excessively diplomatic, or conveyed to people other than the actual target. We often use indirectness to avoid confrontation or to avoid dealing with conflict. It can be an expensive practice.
A calm seaAn Emergency Toolkit
You've just had some bad news at work, and you're angry or really upset. Maybe you feel like the target of a vicious insult or the victim of a serious injustice. You have work to do, and you want to respond, but you must first regain your composure. What can you do to calm down and start feeling better?
Lewis and Clark on the Lower ColumbiaAstonishing Successes
When we have successes that surprise us, we do feel good, but beyond that, our reactions are sometimes self-defeating. What happens when we experience unanticipated success, and how can we handle it better?
The piping plover, a threatened species of shore birdUsing the Parking Lot
In meetings, keeping a list we call the "parking lot" is a fairly standard practice. As the discussion unfolds, we "park" there any items that arise that aren't on the agenda, but which we believe could be important someday soon. Here are some tips for making your parking lot process more effective.
A map of the Internet ca. January 2005Intentionally Unintentional Learning
Intentional learning is learning we undertake by choice, usually with specific goals. When we're open to learning not only from those goals, but also from whatever we happen upon, what we learn can have far greater impact.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

An abandoned railwayComing August 21: Perfectionism and Avoidance
Avoiding tasks we regard as unpleasant, boring, or intimidating is a pattern known as procrastination. Perfectionism is another pattern. The interplay between the two makes intervention a bit tricky. Available here and by RSS on August 21.
A dog playing catch with a discAnd on August 28: Playing at Work
Eight hours a day — usually more — of meetings, phone calls, reading and writing email and text messages, briefing others or being briefed, is enough to drive anyone around the bend. To re-energize, to clarify one's perspective, and to restore creative capacity, play is essential. Play at work, I mean. Available here and by RSS on August 28.

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 Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

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.