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Employee Appraisals Suck – Here’s Why - Liberty Mind

Employee Appraisals Suck – Here’s Why

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Employee Appraisals Suck - Here's Why

If there’s something that’s going to suck the life out of your company culture, it’s employee appraisals.

Time and time again I’ve seen bad practice appraisals simply done because it’s a HR exercise. Not because the business wants to increase engagement and employee happiness, but to control their employees and keep their eyes on any potential issues.

Appraisals suck! – But there are not many people who will vocally tell you why you shouldn’t be doing them. Perhaps it’s because without the appraisals you may actually have to invest more time and money on employee development?

Here’s why you should rethink your appraisal strategy, and work out if they’re really necessary?

1) They do nothing in the way for supporting employee development

From the traditional examples we’ve seen of appraisals they provide no structure or feedback that is practical to the employee’s development.

Appraisals are often just a case of benchmarking where people are and then telling them where they should be. There’s no guidance or support provided to the employee on how they can improve or grow.

Assessing where they are in the company and where they potentially want to move towards is great. But not giving them the support on this path is like telling people the dream without giving them the goals to get there. You are essentially setting them up to fail!

Even when a structure is often provided, the employee is left to their own devices. Not supporting them with mentoring or dedicated time to work towards this goal. This can mean they can soon lose their motivation, especially if their day-to-day work ends up taking a priority over their development.

Unfortunately, many organisations don’t give employees structure or plans to support them in their development, which means they feel lost.

To make matters more difficult, leadership may promise training or support that never arrives. Making the employee feel frustrated and disengaged.

Man writing on a whiteboard detailing out a process.

2) They are delayed and not proactive

Too many times in appraisals we see employees recognised for something they’ve done months ago, or even worse, chastised for an error or failure that happened months ago. Either way you look at it, that delayed response says to your employees that you don’t care.

Looking back on things that have happened can be infuriating for employees. Why are we picking up on things that happened three or six months ago?

A delay in recognition or feedback is frustrating, and meaningless, and can lead to severely disengaged employees.

If there’s an issue it should be addressed straight away rather than waiting three or six months to bring it up.

The same goes for recognition. Not recognising people’s efforts in the moment leads to people feeling devalued.

A laptop is on a desk showing a schedule of a calendar.

3) They make people feel rubbish

Let’s be honest, appraisals are the most awkward moments of the year, and nobody involved enjoys them. Employers hate doing them because ‘they don’t have enough time’ or are worried they’re going to discover unhappy employees. Employees hate being part of them because they’re impersonal and almost always include an outdated feedback sandwich.

As an employee, you’re wondering if your contributions are finally going to be recognised, while on the other hand, fearing negative feedback.

The current appraisal structure of positive + negative + positive is outdated business nonsense that unfortunately still reigns supreme in the world of HR.

If it isn’t bad enough that everyone hates them, for an employee they’re often given a form to fill in prior to their appraisal where they have to rate themselves from 1 – 5 on how they think they’re doing in those areas. What a disheartening way to sum up a person!

Boiling down an individual’s contribution to the company to numbers. No wonder most people walk out of an appraisal feeling like they want to quit.

We need to make it personal and in their current format, appraisals aren’t doing that!

Woman looking out over lake with hands over her head.

4) It’s too late to improve employee engagement

Most appraisals come too late to truly make a difference to people. Unhappy employees are already looking for another job.

If you believe appraisals are supporting your employee engagement, we have bad news for you. It’s not, and it could be working in the opposite way.

Think about it. If an individual is unhappy at work do you truly believe that an appraisal is going to change their mind?

They’re either going to stay a few months more to see if anything changes, or it’s going to be the final straw that makes them leave.

As many appraisals are often months apart, this leaves too much time in between for unhappiness and disengagement to take seed. If it’s left to fester it only grows into a more toxic attitude towards the workplace. This is where appraisals are too reactive rather than proactive.

Mentoring is one way to be more proactive as you can check-in with employees on a monthly basis and resolve any issues when they come up rather than waiting months down the line when they become a bigger problem and began to impact other members of the team.

Man walking out of an office wearing a backpack.

5) They contain crappy targets that are often pulled out of the air

Many of the targets given to employees during appraisals have nothing to do with the company’s purpose, and are often completely subjective!  

Targets shouldn’t be used to keep people in line and push them a little harder – that simply shows you’ve hired poorly. Targets should empower and drive people to want to become their best selves and deliver work they are passionate about.

If you’re picking targets out of the air, you won’t be getting the best work from your team, and you certainly won’t have a dedicated and loyal team. Wave goodbye to retention!

Pen on piece of paper that says 'to do list'

6) If they go wrong it can be detrimental to retention

Appraisals can go wrong, and when they do you’ll destroy employee engagement.

What was once a positive and productive employee, in the span of 30 minutes can become completely disengaged with your company and ready to seek new adventures.

Poorly executing an appraisal will leave everyone feeling rubbish and mean that productivity drops.

You’ll be able to tell from the ripples of negativity that come out of the door when the appraisal is over. People’s body language and behaviour changes, and everyone in the organisation can instantly pick up that something didn’t go well.

A woman is sitting over her laptop holding her head in her hands.

7) The feedback can be biased

Are we being mindful of what we’re asking of employees?

The feedback often provided in appraisals is one-sided. It can come from leaders who haven’t worked directly with that employee, and it can be ego driven.

Is the feedback being given how we want them to work, or is it helping them define and grow in their own role? – Too many times the feedback given is to try and mold people into how we believe they should be.

Appraisals don’t support employee development they aid organisational control.

A woman being spoken to by two other female colleagues.

Things to think about when it comes to employee appraisals;

If you ‘HAVE’ to do appraisals or reviews, here are a few things to consider improving them;


  • Make it personal, don’t use numbers.
  • Don’t reference things that happened months ago. Be proactive. When something good or bad happens recognise it in the moment. Don’t save it for an appraisal.
  • Don’t use the feedback sandwich.
  • Create personal development plans with structure and support.
  • Adopt monthly mentoring to remain proactive and provide support to employees.
  • Include team members in the appraisal as peer to peer feedback can be just as important.
  • Make targets meaningful and ask the employee to contribute their thoughts to the target. After all, they’re the ones that need to feel empowered by it.
  • Don’t miss one. Make appraisals matter. Don’t keep moving them to different dates as employees will feel you don’t actually care.


For further support with your employee development, discover how my 121 employee mentoring can provide a monthly support for your team.


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    About The Author

    Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.