I’ve been in a few conversations lately around the importance of doing or not doing performance appraisals or 360’s for employees. I had a boss who did NOT believe in providing performance reviews as he believed “you already know where you are weak and need improvement, and probably aren’t going to change, so why harp on it? It is far better to focus on helping you make your strengths stronger than coaching your weaknesses” went the rhetoric and logic.
Growing up professionally under the Procter & Gamble management model, I found my 360 reviews extremely helpful. I didn’t always like them, but I found they helped me understand the implications of my weakness areas and they gave me some ideas on how I could mitigate the impact of my weaknesses. Over time I was able to make adjustments and shore up where I fell short.
The problem I have with the management style not bothering to give improvement feedback, is that it is based on the premise that people can’t change, which I find a horrible way of thinking about people. The reality of this kind of management style is that people who go through the early part of their career with zero performance feedback and get only promotions or raises as the primary feedback mechanism, end up sooner or later plateauing at a level and not getting promotions, and not knowing why.
I thought perhaps Millennials might value performance feedback differently and that performance feedback would go the way of the Dinosaur as Baby Boomers and GenXrs move out. So I did some research and found I couldn’t be more wrong. Millennials, according to several studies, have an increased desire for feedback but also want to be engaged in a different way. More transparency, more frequent, and more specific are the key factors for Millennials.
Like most management practices, what one things about the human condition drives what kind of approach you take to performance feedback. If you think people can’t change, improve, and grow, (which means you can’t change either) then by all means, don’t bother with giving feedback.
But if you do believe people can change, they deserve to know the truth as to weaknesses and strengths and we do no service to people or the organization by ignoring helpful feedback.