You can go buy the book, and not go BY the book!

I will not throw away my books!
I will not throw away my books!

I ran across this blog post titled “Seriously if you have ever used a canned performance appraisal you should be fired” where the blogger blasts the use of books (Ready-to-Use Performance Appraisals, specifically) to write employee performance reviews.

“One thing being a manager isn’t? Being a color-by-numbers, manager-in-name-only job. If you’re too “busy” to give an honest performance review, get out of the business of being a “manager.” If you have ever used a canned performance appraisal, you should be fired. If you’re an HR trainer and think it’s okay to teach “managers” to use pre-populated, canned performance phrases…well, you should exit stage right, too.”

Whoa! Those are strong words for the manager who might turn to a book or reference guide for a little inspiration or to get “unstuck” when working on an employee’s annual review. While I agree that using only “pre-populated, canned performance phrases” is no way to appraise an employee (and perhaps even a sign of a lazy, ineffective manager), I also don’t think we need to shelve these books and guides completely.

The way I see it, these books are a tool – one of many in a manager’s toolbox that can be used to fix a problem, measure up a situation or build a better team. Just as a great cook might start with a basic recipe, but add his own flair with a dash of this or a splash of that, so can a great manager refer to a well-written book to create a balanced performance appraisal. Not sure how to address an employee’s time management issues? A book might help. Want to outline some new performance objectives to coincide with an employee’s recent promotion? A book might help. “Help” is the operative word here.

It comes down to this: If you’re a good manager, you shouldn’t treat performance appraisals as a once-a-year occurrence and you shouldn’t expect a book to magically write a review for you.

So when it comes to writing performance reviews, don’t go “by the book,” but don’t toss it aside, either. It deserves a spot in the manager’s toolbox!

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