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Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead 1st Edition

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1576750766
ISBN-10: 1576750760
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Regardless of from which side of the desk one has experienced the rite known as the performance appraisal, there are many who will welcome the authors' provocative proposal. Coens is an attorney and organizational trainer; Jenkins is a former human resources director at a division of General Motors. They acknowledge the countless books about performance appraisals and note that most suggest ways to make appraisal systems work better. Coens and Jenkins argue instead that appraisals do not accomplish what they are supposed to and that, in fact, they are counterproductive. They offer compelling evidence to demonstrate that appraisals backfire as they examine the five functions (coaching, feedback, setting pay, determining promotions, and documentation) for which appraisals are designed. Then they lay down sequential steps for phasing out appraisals and for designing and implementing separately the alternatives they propose for each function. The authors rate an "excellent" for demonstrating the ability to think creatively and for generally exceeding expectations for books in this category. David Rouse
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"Coens and Jenkins have created a beautiful book about an ugly subject performance appraisal. -- Dick Richards, author of Artful Work.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1st edition (January 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576750760
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576750766
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,128,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book has more perspectives and detail about the problems with performance appraisals than you would have learned about in 20 years. As a result, the suggestion to abolish performance appraisals comes as no surprise (especially since that's the title) and the logic is appealing, as well. To get rid of performance appraisals will be difficult in most companies, because people will not be able to imagine what the alternatives can be. The book's rich detail about the problems, and then the many suggestions in it for how to develop replacements fill those gaps.
If you are like me and dislike performance appraisals, get this book to help you to migrate away from them.
Since I never liked performance appraisals, I abolished them years ago in our consulting firm. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the mechanisms that I had substituted for performance appraisals were consistent with the authors' recommendations.
I am a big believer in complexity science, and like to see organizations operating in more free form ways. You have to eliminate strait jackets like performance appraisals to get to that point.
The thrust of the alternative is to place the responsibility with each person in the company for their own development, but be sure that they get access to the resources and feedback they need to improve. This is also very revealing because people vary enormously in how interested they are in improving. If you put the ball in their court, you will learn a great deal about the future potential of the people in the organization. Some will try very little. Some will try a lot. Many will not follow through. But you will have opened a doorway through which the most motivated to improve can go as far as they want. That's terrific!
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lovitt on November 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an important and well written book. The authors, Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins, think it is time for organizations to begin treating employees like the adults that they are. There is too much patriarchal and paternalistic hand-holding, and way too much time spent monitoring, evaluating and judging individuals. The authors advocate dropping the ritual of performance appraisal as a vital step, in itself, and for the "undercurrent" that appraisal represents, towards freeing the human spirit in organizations. This undercurrent "hangs like a cloud, pervades the workplace atmosphere...." It is the "personnel policies, human resource practices, and most importantly, the organization's unseen culture (values and beliefs) about people. It sends messages that people are not interested in working or improving the organization, messages that people are children who need to be directed and controlled in an atmosphere much like a traditional school." This is powerful stuff.
Coens and Jenkins want us to get busy on working together towards improving processes and the system of delivering value to our customers, and give up the quest for finally pinpointing, once and for all, who the "1"s, "2"s, "3"s, etc. are in the organization. They want us to quit thinking that a person's value and performance can somehow be reduced to a number. They explain how this is a fallacy and illusion, given the impossibility of separating out the individual's contribution from the contribution of the system or environment that she works in, inherent measurement and judgment biases, and organizational politics. More importantly, such reductionism is degrading and demoralizing to the individual.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Quintero on January 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Abolishing Performance Appraisals makes a powerful case for removing this well intended yet ineffective ritual organizations have been requiring for decades. Indeed, Coens and Jenkins provide solid reason why appraisals have to go, to be replaced with quality feedback mechanisms including coaching and support structures that enable employees to maximize their own potential. No one reading this book would challenge its basic argument. My primary concern was in the prescription. They recommend you recruit a group of stakeholders as your design team, to explore the problem in your own organization, and to arrive at alternatives that align with your organization's mission. Considering that Coens and Jenkins affirm W. Edward Deming's claim that 94% of performance outcomes are attributable to the system, they are less robust in offering concrete guidelines on what "the system" should look like. This book is excellent in describing the history of the problem and highly persuasive in its message. It accomplishes that goal. If the reader is interested in exploring a system that is a clear alternative, that is simple in scope and provides a strong transition from the current mess, I recommend you pick up Catalytic Coaching - The End of the Performance Review by Gary Markle. Equally thought provoking on the issue, but a stronger set of steps on how to approach the problem.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. Farinella on December 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful gift Coens and Jenkins have given to us! As a Human Resource Director at a large, Midwest manufacturing facility, I see first hand the impact of performance appraisals on both the company and the individual. I have never felt comfortable with the appraisal process, but always feel responsible for assuring its proper implementation. Despite my best efforts, the process never works as it is intended. Numbers continue to get in the way of meaningful conversation, ratings are rarely accurate, people continue to feel bitter and betrayed, and managers, in general, are uneasy with the process. This book has done several things for me. First, it validates my discomfort with performance apraisals. Secondly, it explains why I feel the way I do and thirdly, it lays the foundation for the "new thinking" that's required for an organization to develop sound alternatives to performance appraisal. The authors draw effectively from the myriad of research by respected change agents such as Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Alfie Kohn, Peter Scholtes, Philp Crosby, Douglas McGregor and others. From the opening dedication ("To all the supervisors and managers who care about people and who have tried their best to make performance appraisals work") to the book's closing call to action by T.S. Eliot, (" make an end is to make a beginning") this book spoke to me. Coens and Jenkins have created a lasting and important contribution to the serious debate about the effectiveness of performance appraisals.
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