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on May 17, 2007
The book begins with a foreword titled: "It's not supposed to be this way." The authors outline the problems and issues that many people have with performance appraisals. Then they make two key points. Here's the first one.

"Rather than a painful yearly event, performance appraisals can be viewed as a discussion, a culmination of small meetings held throughout the evaluation period."

In other words, performance review grows out of supervision. The rest of the book assumes that those "discussions" are going on. They're necessary to the process, but they're not the subject of the book.

The authors also make the point that: "In one form or other, performance reviews will continue to be a fact of our work life. This book is designed to cut through the anxiety and make the process, or series of discussions, more pleasant and productive."

Even though there are some people calling for the abolition of performance reviews as we know them, that's not likely to happen on a large scale any time soon. If the place that you work has a formal performance appraisal process now, you can count on having to deal with it for years to come.

I assume that if you're considering purchasing this book you will either be looking for ways to make your company's performance review system better or you will be looking for ways to make the process of actually doing performance reviews with your subordinates less daunting. For that reason, I'll split my analysis and recommendations into two parts.

Designing the Performance Review System

If you are responsible for designing or re-designing the performance review system in your organization, this is a book you should read. The research that's referred to matches up well with research I've done and read. The authors do a good job of presenting it and drawing conclusions.

They're also thorough. There's discussion of the current state of performance reviews, supervisor-employee relationships, scorecards, compensation, and much more.

Working Managers

If you are a working manager who has to do appraisals within your organization's system you will find some helpful material here, too. There's good discussion of how appraisals go off track. The authors cover different kinds of rating errors. And, there's material on actually conducting the appraisal.

But this part of the book is not as strong as the part about designing formal appraisal systems. There's not much depth or reach to the material on face-to-face discussion of behavior and performance issues.

That's because those are peripheral issues for the authors in this book. If you want more on face to face discussion, read my book, Performance Talk: the one-on-one part of leadership, which deals specifically with that aspect of supervision.

That's a quibble, though. Stress-Free Performance Appraisals is a solid, well-researched and well-written book that can help you improve the performance review process in your company.
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on March 2, 2006
This is a great resource for HR consultants and practioners who are creating innovative performance management systems for their organizations. It addresses the underlying issues that prevent organizations from successfully managing performance and delivering candid and constructive feedback. I highly recommend it to all of my clients.
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on October 20, 2003
As an experienced human resources professional, I have dreamed of the day when I could create a succesful performance appraisal program. And I had concluded that there was absolutely no way to please everyone. Cheer up -- Stress-free Performance Appraisals offers a fresh perspective to this tired, worn topic.
The text is, surprisingly, useful for human resources professionals, managers, and employees. It is visually attractive and chocked full of valuable questions, extensive documentation, great examples from well-regarded organizations, and ideas to cover a variety of cultures and performance appraisal philosophies. As examples of their recommendations, the authors weave -- chapter-by-chapter -- the scenarios of three fictional employees with varying performance levels. The book is an easy read in about three hours.
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on August 4, 2003
This book delivers what it promises. It showed me how to think about appraisals in a whole new light. It also made the entire process, from advance preparation, to ways to talk to employees, to legal pitfalls, to the kinds of forms to use very clear. It really moves from A to Z and it's a great read.
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on August 2, 2003
I love all the references to "both sides of the desk." This book is exceptionally helpful because it covers so many bases yet is interesting and enjoyable to read. In particular, the information tying organization vision to appraisals sets this book apart. Also very valuable and practical are the checklists and "operational maps" in every chapter. I used the 11 ways to prepare for a review the day after reading this book. And the lists of errors and different work styles are real eye openers.
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on August 8, 2003
I'm so enthusiastic about this new book I had to send in a review. It is not just a very applicable guide, but it also delves into the values of the company, the employer and the employee. No aspect is left out. "Stress Free Performance Appraisals" is unlike any other business book I've used before. It smoothly packs usable information into a compact, never tedious book. What I like most are the employer and employee self-assessments, the role plays, the ready-to-go forms, and the three scenarios that are followed through-out the book. The actual case examples are excellent. More than a how-to resource, this book gives a fresh context to the whole subject of performance appraisals.
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on August 17, 2003
So this is what motivates Gen Xers! This is an outstanding book, especially the chapter about 21st Century challenges. The content about telecommuting, matrix management, appraising when there is more than one supervisor, and flex time is a big help in guiding me through the challenges of a new era in management. I have bookmarked numerous pages in this refreshing new book and I recommend it to both managers and their employees.
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Everyone, it seems, hates performance appraisals. Some corporate cultures compel managers to "grade on the curve," which means that even good employees may have to fail. Even in less draconian corporate cultures, performance appraisals require supervisors to tell people about their shortcomings, an uncomfortable exercise for both the appraiser and the appraised. Meanwhile, lurking in the not-too-distant background is the threat of litigation instigated by an employee whose appraiser lets slip an awkward reference to race, sex, age or some other legally proscribed subject. This book tells you how to avoid the stress and anxiety of appraisals by focusing on a few basics. Authors Sharon Armstrong and Madelyn Appelbaum provide valuable counsel - albeit not terribly well organized - for people on both sides of the desk, both the supervisor and the employee. We recommend the authors' useful potpourri of advice, role playing exercises, case histories, evaluation forms and observations about appraisals to everyone who participates in a performance appraisal system and certainly to anybody who runs one.
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on August 4, 2003
If all employers and employees read this book, performance appraisals would
no longer be so hateful. Since just about all of us have to do them, this
interesting book is a worthwhile investment in learning how to do them well. It
is by far the best one I have ever read on the subject. The opening about why
we fear performance reviews in the first place and the differing perspectives
of employers and employees hooked me right from the start. By the time I
reached the final chapter, which makes an interesting case for ditching appraisals
completely, I was even eager to get ready for my upcoming appraisal! I am
writing this reveiw because this book is so good.
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on October 30, 2003
Sharon Armstrong is a known expert in the field of performance appraisals and human resources training and her latest book does a fantastic job of covering a critical issue for any manager. This is a must read for any manager or would-be manager - its well-written, easily readable, and has the capacity to improve any workplace. Strong reccommend!
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