September 27th 2021

Part 2: Performance Management Appraisal

In the previous article of this series, we saw that performance management is essential to any individual, team, and organization, as it allows to objectively measure work performance and productivity. We also presented a traditional evaluation model that can be used as a performance management evaluation grid. 

So Now What?

So now that you’ve seen what a performance management appraisal might look like, you’ve probably realized that it’s like the report cards we used to get as kids. Report cards usually brought on two possible types of reactions: either excitement (because you were good in school) or anxiety (because you struggled in school and might get punished if you got a D in history, for example). Parent-teacher night and report card season were never meant to destroy a child’s ability and knock them down if they struggled in school; rather, they were meant to track a child’s progress, to identify what they excelled at and to pinpoint where they struggled. It was through report cards that teachers could help tailor some of their teaching strategies to help a child who struggled with math, for example, and help them understand how to problem-solve. It was also through report cards that teachers could have a frank conversation with parents and suggest some strategies that they could use at home to help bolster a child so that their struggles didn’t appear too daunting.

Performance management appraisals should be viewed in the same way, as a report card, or a roadmap that identifies both an employee’s strengths and areas for improvement. Performance appraisals should very rarely be one-sided or polarized. In other words, if a performance management appraisal is focused solely on the areas for improvement, chances are it is not a true reflection of the employee’s contribution to the organization and that there may be an underlying cause for the negative appraisal. The opposite is also true: if a performance management appraisal is only positive with very little identified areas for improvement, it is likely that the review is also biased. A biased appraisal, whether positive or negative, will have consequences on an employee and their employer. This said, a negative appraisal will yield more difficulties with employee motivation, engagement, productivity, and long-term commitment and loyalty to the organization.

Roles and Responsibilities

When considering performance management appraisals, each member of an organization has specific roles and responsibilities. While employees are responsible for actively participating in the organization’s performance management appraisal program and must meet their work objectives and expected results, managers and human resources advisors or talent management advisors have a heavier burden to bear.

Managers have a responsibility, not only to the organization, but also to the employees who report to them. The manager’s list of responsibilities can be daunting at times, but it is essential to remind managers that conducting a performance management appraisal is a privilege and not a right; as such, appraisals should always be carried out ethically, ensuring that an objective and impartial lens is used. Because managers are humans dealing with humans, it will be necessary for them to take a pulse check and see if their appraisal measures what it is meant to measure: that is an employee’s work performance and not necessarily an employee’s personality. In my line of work, I have all too often read performance appraisals that focused on employees’ perceived personality flaws and not their actual contribution to the work environment itself. Very often these personality flaws were exaggerated and somehow gave managers a justification to negatively assess their employees. Therefore, it is key to have a sound framework established when providing a performance management appraisal, including perhaps a blind review. In the scientific community, a blind review is considered “an evaluation of a manuscript to assess its suitability for publication or of a grant proposal to assess its suitability for funding, as performed by a person who does not know the identity of the author or proposer” (American Psychological Association, 2020). By extension, a blind review of a performance management appraisal should be carried out to ensure that the assessment is fair, objective, and does not include perceived personality flaws, but rather proper/improper behaviours and approaches to work along with an employee’s work performance and achieved results. The blind reviewer should never know the identity of the manager, nor that of the employee to avoid being biased. Training should also be provided to blind reviewers to help them decipher any areas in the performance management assessment that may appear to assess personality rather than work performance.

Human resources or talent management advisors, on the other hand, have an even greater list of responsibilities than managers as they generally oversee the performance management assessment program and policy. In other words, they are the gatekeepers and must ensure that managers conduct their assessments fairly and objectively and have guidance and support to implement their team or department’s performance and talent management programs. In addition to administering and establishing the terms of reference or framework for the performance management appraisal program within their organization, they must also determine with the head of the human resources department the criteria required to implement any professional or talent development plans.


Much more could be said about performance management appraisals, including the consequences that could result from an unfair or biased assessment. In a unionized work environment, especially, performance management appraisals that are used to unjustly punish an employee where a manager’s abuse of power or authority can be detected could lead to grievances and at worst, legal ramifications. Abuses of power and authority are also an insidious form of psychological harassment and employees subjected to this form of harm could have legal recourse to not only ensure that the assessment is properly completed, but also to obtain a form of compensation. If this were to happen, it could be very well costly for an employer, not only from a financial point of view, but also from a reputational point of view, which could also have an impact on employee engagement and, ipso facto, on the overall productivity of the organization. Therefore, it is incumbent upon any manager to ask themselves if they have any misgivings or ill-feelings towards their employees before starting a performance management assessment and to use any mitigating measures necessary to ensure that they are carrying out their review objectively. When in doubt, it is a best practice to secure the assistance of a neutral third-party individual and/or guidance from a human resource advisor and have a do’s and don’ts cheat sheet to consult regularly. By doing so, managers hold themselves and their organization accountable and provide the best possible appraisal that will ultimately help an employee improve – not destroy them. Besides, in our world of fantasy and superheroes, isn’t it more advantageous to have a workforce full of Bruce Banner instead of Hulk? I would like to think so.



American Psychological Association (2020). Blind Review. APA Dictionary of Psychology.

Gallagher, B.J. (2020, January 7). The DOs and DON’Ts of performance reviews. American Management Association.

Government of Canada (2020, April 1). Directive on performance management. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Government of Canada (2021, April 28). Policy on people management. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.