Are You Destroying Your Employees?





You are destroying your employees if you are requiring them to engage with you in “performance evaluation!”

Is performance evaluation out-dated? Does it fail to do what it is intended to do — help employees grow?

Read this:

From The New Quality Leadership Workbook (2014):

“For the most part, policing is teamwork. It functions best when everyone pulls together and does their job. Yet we still seem to talk a lot about individual effort in our culture.We like our “stars” and then forget it was the team that made them so.

“But building an effective team takes work. Most of the time it involves looking at ourselves and the barriers we set up.One of the greatest skills of a leader is the ability to deeply, some would say,graciously,listen. As we think about building teams in our organizations in order to make better decisions, most of us are saddled by having to do performance evaluations – one of the great destroyers of teamwork…

What’s the best tool to use for performance evaluation? You may be surprised.

  • Any employee’s work, including the work of leaders, is tied to many systems and processes. HOWEVER, performance evaluation focuses on individuals, as if one of those individuals could be appraised apart from the systems in which they work. 
  • Most work is a product of a group of people. HOWEVER, a process of evaluating an individual requires a pretense that the individual is working alone.  As a result, performance evaluation encourages lone rangers and is a divisive influence in an organization. 
  • Performance evaluation presumes consistent, predictable systems. HOWEVER, systems and processes are subject to constant changes, often beyond anyone’s awareness or ability to predict. 
  • Performance evaluation requires a process of appraisal that is objective, consistent, dependable and fair. Otherwise the evaluation will be seen as capricious and based on favoritism. HOWEVER, such objectivity and consistency simply does not exist.


  • Encourages mediocrity by rewarding those who set safe goals.
  • Puts pressure on employees to work around systems rather than improve them.
  • Inevitably demoralizes employees, creating either losers or cynics.


  • IF YOU WISH TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO YOUR EMPLOYEES: Better to use:  Peer feedback, and feedback from key customers (those who use police services). 
  • IF YOU WISH TO DETERMINE CANDIDATES FOR PROMOTION: Better to use:  Give specific assignments, create an assessment center, and develop a culture not dependent on promotion. 
  • IF YOU WISH TO GIVE DIRECTION TO YOUR EMPLOYEES: Better to use: Stress mission of department, talk about shared philosophies, plan for the future, communicate every day, make constant mid-course corrections with your employees, and don’t withhold direction. There should be no surprises. 
  • IF YOU WISH TO GIVE EMPLOYEES RECOGNITION: Better to use:  Teamwork, planning efforts, customer feedback. 
  • IF YOU WISH TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES: Better to use:  Meetings, focus groups, “Leading by Walking Around” (LBWA).


“Performance evaluation is generally done with good intentions. But it tends to be the GREAT DESTROYER OF PEOPLE. INSTEAD — WORK TO IMPROVE THE SYSTEM!”


In Madison (Wisc.), we eliminated the use of traditional performance evaluations over 25 years ago. A former Madison captain, Mike Masterson, now Boise’s chief of police for over 10 years, carries this learning forward:

“Okay, I’ve mixed reality with imagination and have pointed out when I have been speaking of reality.   The one true fact I’m proud of is that in two great organizations I’ve worked in, we haven’t had traditional performance evaluations for over 25 years.  I did away with them in 2005 shortly after arriving here as new Chief.  I’ve never regretted the decision. I don’t believe they add or create value in the work policing does today and exist because we’ve always done it that way.

“Here’s what I know about effective conversant organizations:

  • Encourages talk within the organization about mission, strategies and tactics, problems, successes, ideas and people, at all times, within and among all levels of the organization
  • Is managed by questions from managers about all of the above
  • Provides opportunity for frequent structured conversations inside the organization
  • Requires regular (monthly or quarterly) one-on-one discussions between supervisors and those they supervise to include such topics as performance, goals, ideas, organizational issues, life issues
  • Encourages conversation with citizens and other community service provides at all levels of the organization

“I’ve just arrived at work and 6:30 am briefing,  where one LT , 2 Sgts and 15 Police officers are seated in a semi-circle. (Reality)  I see the primary officer in charge of the call that occurred yesterday, an officer having six years leading a discussion on the review of the call.  As part of the review  she  focuses on what went well and what  we learned from handling this incident that we can do better the next time.  There is no blame or finger-pointing in this learning environment. All officers eventually get “their turn in the barrel” because that’s the way briefing is structured. (Reality)

“A sgt then asks two  officers for a quick summary of the progress they have made on ONE of their three goals for this druther period (four months)   Officer are accountable to each other and the citizens they serve. In the initial goal setting meeting the officer, Sgt and Lieutenant all participated in the goal identification process)   In the review you hear officers talking about a heavy call load and they inability to create the impact they wanted to see on the problem.  Offers of assistance come from his colleagues.   This type of information sharing and teamwork is repeated at each of the eight patrol and motors briefings daily as well as once a week in the specialty divisions (detectives, school resource officers, neighborhood officers.

Employees’ Goal Setting

“Supervisor to meet with each employee at beginning of druther period:

  1. Tell me about your ‘beat’ and its challenges.
  2. What are three major problems affecting safety or livability in your assigned area?
  3. Describe problem area #1.
  4. What action will you take to lessen or solve the problem?
  5. How will you know you have been effective?
  6. What do you need from the department; support from me?
  7. What type of training do you want that will enable you to be a better officer or prepare  you for a new assignment?


“The following is True.  All formal rank leaders, including FTO’s on my department have been trained in IACP’s  – Leadership in Police Organization (LPO) and the 33 leader strategies (adult development theory, attribution, job design, motivation through consequences, expectancy theory, goal setting theory, intrinsic motivation  followership theory just to mention a few.   We have learned the science on communication and what to say , what to ask and more importantly,   when to listen.  Communication as a fundamental, foundational leadership skill cannot be overstated.  What happens when you are the only one who understands the mission of your agency?  Communication includes both listening and talking.   Why is  communication so critical?  Colonel Danny McKnight said it best:

‘If you can’t communicate, you can’t reach.  Subordinates must know what’s expected of them and if your troops can’t communicate with you, you can’t learn.  They must be able to transmit any constraints they have that keep them from accomplishing what’s asked of them.’

“It is this foundation, accompanied by the Twelve Principles of Quality Leadership that prepare every organizational member to have a meaningful two-way conversations. I believe it starts with the leadership philosophy (an art)  couple by what we know (science) that motivates others. For those I lead it is simply this: Quality Leadership and LPO are the answer, and inextricably related. It is art coupled with science…”




[For more see “The Case Against Performance Evaluation” in The Leader’s Handbook, ” by Peter Scholtes.]


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