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The dark side of performance

The dark side of performance

When evaluating employee performance, consider how goals were achieved.

In today’s competitive business environment, where so much depends on the bottom line, it is tempting to base employee performance evaluation criteria exclusively on production goals.

Did Janet in Marketing, for example, create a stunning layout that will be published in this month’s trade journal to launch our new product?  Yes? Then she may be exceeding expectations on her annual goals. She is obviously doing her job well and is therefore in line for a promotion or bonus.

On the surface, it seems very straightforward and logical.  It even appears to be the American ideal of “work hard and get ahead.”  But appearances are often deceiving and, for employers, there are dangers inherent in this line of thinking.  In the example above, Janet may have misappropriated a design layout from a colleague who intended to use the concept on another product proposal in the future.

Much like judging a race solely by watching the runner cross a finish line, you are only seeing the end of the journey and not how it was run.   It is as, if not more, important to evaluate how your employees are reaching their goals.  Performance goals, designed to motivate employees and improve the company’s profit margin, can create a competitive, high pressure situation that is rife with the temptation for unethical behavior. So if you are only monitoring achievement by the end goal, you have no way of knowing which employees have legitimately mastered the skills required to do their job and which are using shortcuts.  Cutting corners, sabotaging the work of team members, talking customers into buying unnecessary products and other unscrupulous behaviors are often seen in competitive environments. Beyond the tension this creates in the workplace, unethical behavior to reach performance goals can have a profound impact on your business.  In most cases, your customers are the first to be effected, but not the last.  Ultimately, the lack of customer satisfaction can result in your company’s loss of reputation and can possibly lead to civil or criminal penalties.

Another way to evaluate employee performance is through personal or “mastery approach” goals.  Instead of encouraging competition between employees, mastery approach goals are designed to promote learning and skill development by encouraging employees to improve on their own prior achievement.  Essentially, they are competing against themselves, which lowers the temptation to engage in unethical business practices.

Mastery approach goals are more individualized than production goals. The employee and manager collaborate to determine where performance enhancement is needed. They then structure a learning path to “approach mastery” in the desired skill set.  Managers can enhance employee buy-in to these goals, by encouraging them to contribute suggestions regarding their path to mastery. If they feel that they have some input into the process, employees are more likely to give it their best effort.  The employee’s progress on this path becomes another measurement of performance and can be used in conjunction with competitive-based goals. Together, they provide a more holistic approach to performance evaluation.

Contact Performensation today to learn how we can take your pay for performance to the next level.

(image courtesy of Creative Commons. Scalleja - http://www.flickr.com/photos/scalleja/)

ESPP - Elective Suspension by Employee?

New Hire, Promotional and Annual Grants, which is the biggest and smallest?