70 – What does ‘meeting expectations’ really mean? A performance appraisal story.

Posted by Whistler                                                                     375 words

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I have been reading Lancing Farrell’s posts on performance appraisal with interest. I am sure everyone has a performance appraisal story to tell. A colleague was telling me about her performance appraisal in which she ‘met expectations’. What does that really mean?

Her performance review outcomes possible were on a five point scale – does not meet, partially meets, meets, exceeds, or significantly exceeds expectations. For each outcome there was a definition. The definition for ‘meets expectations’ gives you an idea about the rest.

“All KPI’s achieved to the standard expected or most achieved with greater than expected results against some. Performance against the requirements of the position and performance criteria meets expectations, and there has been demonstration of values, behaviours, skills and capabilities to the level required”.

To ‘exceed expectations’ you would need to deliver a number of additional projects or provide ‘exceptional’ performance. The important question is what the expectations are and how they are set. In this case, a series of performance objectives were set several months into the financial year and my colleague was asked to review her performance at the end of the financial year and provide a report. There was no discussion of the report but it was annotated with comments from her group manager. None of the corporate KPI’s, such as actual versus budgeted expenditure or meeting customer charter commitments were evaluated.

You are probably saying to yourself, ‘this is just story about a poor performance review process’. And it is. But it is also typical. The views of the group manager determined the performance outcome. They had the discretion to decide whether or not their expectations had been met. There was no systematic evaluation of performance against corporate or functional KPI’s.

What would ‘exceed expectations’ mean in this case? My colleague believes that it would mean behaving in a way that supported the group manager with their career prospects (and avoiding doing anything that could diminish them). It would also mean making them feel like a wonderful and capable leader (and avoiding demonstrating her ability and threatening them). You may say this is just a prejudiced view from someone who didn’t get a good result from their appraisal. Maybe it is.

The question my colleague has now raised is whether or not she really wants to meet her manager’s expectations. Do you?