x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

What are you really worth?

The Life: Appraisal season is fast approaching, so how does the boss tackle the employee who feels they deserve top marks?

image of employee assesment  istockphoto.com
image of employee assesment istockphoto.com

Have you ever heard it said "but I did everything that you asked"?

This is a classic comment by someone who tries to complete the bare minimum. But a leader may only offer a performance rating of three out of five, and definitely not a top rating of five.

Perhaps this common scenario rings true in your experience as a leader.

During performance management review time - which is happening now in many organisations - you may be faced with an employee, or many, where you disagree about their self-assessment. What are you to do?

Here is the typical experience: a leader is struggling to decide between giving an employee what he feels is a deserved two out of five - because the employee did not quite deliver to expectation - or to give a three, because he did work hard, extra hard, and the leader wants the effort rewarded. What rating would you give? Many leaders go ahead and give the generous three.

But this is when the real problem occurs, because in the performance review, the leader discovers that the employee's self-assessment is a five. Instantly, the emotions flare as the confusion sets in, leaving the leader wondering "how in the world can you justify this?"

There may be a common explanation for this emotive performance confusion.

Across the region, there is grave confusion over what performance means. In practice, four different performance orientations have been identified: competition; quality; completion; and ascription.

When you hear a leader or a business make reference to being number one, or the best, it is clear the performance orientation is competition. People who practice this approach are obsessed with beating someone else.

Closely related, but significantly different, is the quality orientation. Here the focus is on being the best you can be. It is not about beating someone else, but on improving personal quality time and time again.

The quality orientation is very present in emerging market leaders who were pushed by their parents to excel in school so they could get into a good university and subsequently secure a good job.

Completion is drastically different from the previous two. In completion, the performance concept is to do exactly what was asked. It is more about finishing a task rather than concern for quality or towards beating anyone else. This is represented in agriculture, rural and cottage-industry backgrounds, where performance is often managed in time.

When there is a recognisable bias on the title, business card, office location, and other outward symbols, it is an indicator of the ascription orientation.

Ascription can be summarised as what you can brag about over coffee or even more importantly what your father would brag about. This is prevalent in honour-and-shame cultures.

The performance conflict in the workforce is typically between a leader who either has a competition or quality orientation and employees adhering to completion or potentially ascription.

This begins to explain the widespread frustration over performance rating variance.

With this understanding, you are positioned to be able to mature your employees' performance orientation, which should result in performance improvement.


Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging market leadership, author of The CEO Shift and the managing director of the Emerging Markets Leadership Centre