How not to run an Appraisal

It’s Appraisals Time for many a large organisation.  The time of year when management incompetence really hits us in the face.  It manifests itself in all sorts of ways, and no doubt you have your own particular horror stories to share.

Yes, but which one’s the Manager?

Here are some of my most vivid memories:

  • Having an appraisal when I didn’t realise it ( an impromptu conversation whilst driving back from a meeting.)
  • The ‘non conversation’:  “It’s been a great year.  Thanks for all you’ve done.  Keep up the good work.”
  • The appraisal scheduled for the morning after the Christmas party (because we didn’t get to see each other very often.)  He was in a far shabbier state than I was.
  • The one where I got some very negative feedback about something I’d done 6 months ago.  He decided to let it fester and save it up for this conversation.
  • The self appraisal (the one where your manager is so lazy he gets you to do it for yourself.  You fill in the form and he writes in his comment and sends it back to you to deal with the admin for him.)

From my work with organisations over the years, I know there are some recurring dysfunctionalities.  These include labelling it as an HR process, getting hijacked/fixated by the form itself, treating it as a mystery exercise in which the appraisee has no idea what is coming, and of course giving poor quality feedback which saps morale and is a form of workplace bullying.

Last week I met up with a close business colleague, Spencer Holmes, to make a video on the subject.  We set out to cram as many dysfunctionalities into less than 10 minutes as we could.  The whole thing is completely improvised, and we set out with no particular plan in mind.  Take a look at it to see how many gaffes you can spot.  We reckon there are over 20.

Do let me know what your worst experience has been.  It can go in my forthcoming book on Management Dysfunctionality!

© Scott Griessel –

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
This entry was posted in Management Skills, Personal Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How not to run an Appraisal

  1. Colin says:

    Hi Michael, first class video, how you two managed to get through it without collapsing in fits of laughter was some achievement…I would give it a 5, unless that pushes the average up! Loved Spencer suggesting that the Gym was good personal development and you agreeing it should be a 5 as nobody would check up. So many great one liners. Especially liked the part where you suggested Spencer has some Appraisee training….priceless.

    One of those videos to show others how not to conduct appraisals, but one which has a serious side to it, i.e. that they are not taken seriously by most organisations and seen as one I ‘have’ to do.

    I feel the starting point is that feedback is given regularly, i.e. as and when something happens that warrants feedback and it is two way. The appraisal is owned by the Appraisee who knows that it is valuable and taken seriously by the business, and they are the ones responsible for arranging the meeting with the Appraiser. This is all about personal responsibility and accountability, i.e. an adult-adult relationship, not the parent-child relationship found in most organisations. Finally, the form used needs to be very simple to complete, and as suggested in the video training is given on being an Appraisee and an Appraiser.

    You have done a great job Michael, keep it up.



    • Hi Colin. Thanks so much for the feedback and the thoughtful comment. I so agree with the points you make. It all seems so obvious, and yet we hear of so many examples where managers get it wrong and turn it into a destructive process. Spencer and I have considered making a “How to do it right” version, but we think this is so much harder, and more likely to attract negative comment. Maybe we will though, as if it sparks a debate and gets people thinking, that is the whole point really.

      We did a “How not to coach” video that day as well, which I will publish shortly.




  2. lita cavanagh says:

    Hi Michael
    Thank you once again for a great video. You would be horrified to learn my real one was much worse. My line manager did not even take time to look up at me. It took 4 minutes and when we discussed CPD, I asked for personal development, informing her I had put a request in and heard nothing. Her ‘reply, ‘no you won’t’, swiftly moving on to discuss someone elses appraisal with me. It is not that I have not done well (hopefully) I achieved all my targets and more. I have a great relationship with senior management and all my colleagues, so have viewed this as a ‘line manager failure’. It did leave me demotivated and looking for a new job, until senior management had read the appraisal and brought it to my attention, they made up for my line managers weakness. Just wanted to make a point to some people who have experienced a negative appraisal, that it may just be, as you have demonstrated down to the appraiser, not the appraisee.
    Thank you once again, I am a huge fan of your work.


    • Many thanks for your feedback Lita, and for sharing this personal experience. Bad appraisers can do an awful lot of damage, that’s for sure.

      I am uploading the ‘How not to coach’ video to Dropbox for you ask I write this, so will send you the link as soon as it is up there.


  3. CG says:

    Thanks for this Michael. I wonder if you can do one that shows how to conduct a great appraisal. Hope I have not missed it if you have this already. Have a great day. Kind regards, Chucks.


    • Thanks for the suggestion Chucks. I’m not sure which is harder – showing how not to do it, or modelling how to do it 🙂 The latter of course leaves you open to all sorts of criticism, and I’ve never been one for claiming to be an expert in anything. What I do try and do well is to get people thinking, which is what I hope I have done for you?


What do you think? Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s