Why Is Poor Performance Management Universal?

My colleague Daphne’s last post was about supervisors and managers who don’t keep up on their performance management, give good reviews for poor performance, and then wonder why they can’t fire the employee.  An interesting question is why managers behave this way.  It’s often not for lack of being told what they should do.

I have several ideas based on my experience in a wide range of workplaces. Perhaps if the causes for this behavior are understood, the behavior can be changed :

  • It’s tedious and unpleasant to have to stay on top of an employee’s poor performance.
  • Many managers and supervisors don’t like conflict.
  • Performance management is time consuming and many supervisors don’t have the time.
  • Employees whose problems are actively managed often complain about it to HR, upper management, or their union. If the supervisor and subordinate are in different protected classes, a hostile work environment allegation is sure to be part of the complaint.  Retaliation is often alleged as well.
  • Upper management does little to reward supervisors for effectively handling poor performers. Perhaps if the importance of performance management was recognized in the supervisor’s own performance ratings or pay, it would be done more often.
  • Raises may be tied to performance reviews. Who wants to deny a raise to the needy single parent or longtime beloved but incompetent employee?
  • Managers and supervisors often don’t even see performance management as a key part of their job. Why? Because upper managment doesn’t emphasize or reward it, except when there’s a problem.

I came up with all these reasons in about 15 minutes and I’m sure there are more. No wonder this is a problem. Can you think of other reasons?  ~Amy Stephson

3 responses to “Why Is Poor Performance Management Universal?

  1. You raise some great points that have been brought up by others recently; I imagine the recession has had a lot to do with many companies questioning the effectiveness of the longtime assumed solution of performance reviews.

    I would be interested in your readers’ take on a LinkedIn poll I created last week on this topic: http://bit.ly/bMVfna I ask whether reviews are ultimately constructive or destructive to companies. Currently 84% say constructive and 15% say destructive.

    Thanks for writing on this, Amy!

  2. Workplace Insiders

    Mark, you present some interesting data. I wonder whether a lot of people would say that reviews are ultimately constructive because they’re the one thing that forces communication about performance between supervisor and subordinate? It tends to be something both parties hate to do. I wonder, too, whether your results would be different if there was more ongoing communication on the subject? Just a thought…Daphne

  3. Managers of different teams not supporting each other – which requires Upper Management to intervene to get managers of an organisation to work together … but they often do not have the time for this. Managers should have these skills of working as a team at the first place – not always the case. If Managers are not united, employees in these teams will not be united either.

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