Who's Afraid of Performance Management?

I've been in a couple of federal agencies where performance management was a hot topic and every manager was afraid to touch it for fear of a grievance.

I've been in meetings where the discussion focused on "rooting out the dead wood," and I said, what about recognizing the good wood and I got the look like, come on Dannielle, we all know that poor performance is the problem.

And the opposite, there were those meetings where everybody focused on how bad criticism is by nature, how it hurts morale and how bad employees would feel if they got an actual one in their performance evaluation.

This is not one agency this is at least two, three if you count benignly ignoring poor performance and giving virtually everyone performance awards. It's four if you count the one where I inadvertently found out someone did something really bad, reported it and there was no obvious consequence other than I was outed as something of a troublemaker.

And then there's the private sector where the new fad is "holacracy," as in "hola" to managers not having to manage because peer groups take care of it for them. That's Zappos; let's not forget Whole Foods where the co-CEO lets employees run the stores (as long as the employees earn far less and he keeps making a profit) and also wants to have "sleepovers" so that corporate staff can be more like friends.

I have had lots of bosses in my life. Some have benignly let me do whatever I wanted, and I've flourished. Others have been unfairly harsh. Still others have been rigorous about telling me what I'm doing wrong, and praising me (more rarely) when I get it right. Those are the managers I want to work for - the people I want to please - because I know that when I get an actual good rating it means something.

In the end you've got to look yourself in the mirror and respect what you see in the reflection. As a manager or supervisor you owe it to people to give them real feedback and not set up ways to avoid it. As an employee you deserve to get the truth as your supervisor sees it and not mush. And both parties should be grown up enough to engage in respectful dialogue, celebrating victories while admitting mistakes and avoiding excuses.

* All opinions my own.