Would you give a candid review of your boss for appraisal purposes?
Managers are used to delivering feedback to employees during performance appraisal but what happens when the role is reversed? Giving feedback to your managers can be a daunting experience for many of us who are accustomed to the receiving end of feedback. In reality, great managers seek feedback and are open to change. Giving your manager feedback can help them improve. However, given the top-down culture of Asia, very few organisations use upward appraisal or bottom-up appraisals. Upward appraisals are not used independently but as part of the 360 degree appraisal system, which has become more popular in recent years. Here are some reasons why companies should consider upward appraisals:
An open organisation should welcome open appraisal. Employees should have the opportunity to comment on the management styles of their direct supervisors such as their strengths and weaknesses. It is a good opportunity to inform the manager on areas where he or she might need training or improvement in. Some suggested areas where employees should be offered a chance to raise their feedback in are: leadership, ability to feedback on performance, communication, guidance, etc.
Employees are definitely in a good place to observe management behaviour. It is important that employees get the chance to comment as such a system is compatible with an open organisation. However, there are specific conditions that has to be in place to make upward appraisal or feedback work.
One of the conditions is that there should be a participative management style, also known as employee involvement. This is where all stakeholders are encouraged to be involved in analysis of problems, decision making and implementation of solutions. Hence, employees from all levels within the company should be encouraged to participate in giving their managers feedback.
Next, the human resources department should ensure anonymity of employee feedback. It is crucial to let all employees know that their feedback and comments on managers will be treated with strict confidentiality. Only when employees are guaranteed of anonymity will they be honest and forthcoming in their feedback. Therefore, employees need to be briefed on how their feedback will be used and who will have access to those feedback to give them assurance.
An additional point to note is that feedback given on managers should be behaviour specific instead of personality focused items. Criticism based on our behaviour is easier to accept because it is about what we do rather than who we are as a person. Also, it is more constructive to identify behaviours to be changed to help the managers improve in their managerial skills.
Upward appraisal is useful because it helps to improve management skills. Such skills are usually learned through manager or leadership trainings, professional consultants and others who do not have to be managed by the manager! Therefore, there is a danger of circularity if no one below the level of the manager assesses their work performance or give feedback on their managerial style. It will also make sense to check with the direct reports of the manager on what they think of their manager as they are the people most affected by how their manager behaves at work.
Upward appraisals give employees a voice as well as it focuses on staff needs. When employees are given a chance to rate their managers and give them feedback, it will help the organisation identify training needs for managers or identify issues such as how well employees are treated. This helps to boost employee engagement and cultivate a sense of ownership in matters concerning the organisation.
As with any performance appraisal methods, upward appraisals have their limitations. This method is effective only when used in conjunction with other methods. One of the limitations is the risk of distortion of messages. Employees may fear that by saying the truth about their bosses, they will receive negative feedback in return or risk losing their jobs. Everyday, they make decisions on whether to remain silent or speak up and choosing to remain silent is a safe option for them.
In addition, there may be a lack of initiative from employees to provide feedback on their managers, especially if they are used to a top-down work culture approach. Employees may be unwilling to offer information or feedback on their managers unless it is absolutely necessary or to meet the deadlines set by the human resources department. Therefore, in implementing upward appraisals as a new initiative, there is a need to get everyone’s attention and engage them in contributing to how they would like the changes to be.
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