Re: Reply from Hong Kong

GB (
Tue, 19 Aug 97 06:44:24 PDT

Dear Robert-

Thanks for your reply.

By the term "other PCPers interested in Performance Appraisal," I meant
only to indicate those here on this list with whom you already are in
communication. I don't know of any others. But I would imagine that there
are other list members who might be able to suggest other PCP leads to you,
in this domain.

Who am I? A maverick member, in the sense that I know nothing at all about
the technology of PCP, but am deeply interested and committed to the study,
use and propagation of constructivism. However, my patron saint is not
George Kelly, whom I respect but don't revere. It is , or are, instead
Drs. Umberto Maturana, Fernando Flores, and John Searle, with their focus
on language, languaging, and speech acts as the defining realities of our
human existence. This distinction between me and most list members has
occasioned some interesting disputes and discussions since I came on the
list a year or so ago.

As for Performance Appraisal, I have taught the subject for years in my
role as a management analyst/trainer/consultant. My views, as to its
preferred nature and operation, are captured well in the article I
forwarded to you. I view the process the article describes as, along with
training, one of the only two persistently-available, significant levers
for improving staff performance. But:
- they are investment functions, and do not produce an immediate or
certain return;

-they require a certain culture of leadership, support and
follow-through for the work and the staff which may be difficult to
produce and/or sustain

-they perpetuate a focus on the individual, when all modern awareness is
that everyone performs fundamentally as part of a team or group. Unions
especially resist the focus on one because it allows for the easy singling
out of an individual, instead of applying similar standards to all
similarly-situated employees.

- they are vulnerable to bureaucratization,covert sterility, abuse and
neglect, by their very nature (power imbalance, privacy of operation,

-their are many variants of the PA process which are primitive,
distorting, oppressive and dumb....
For example, the most common one is where the supervisor 'rates' the
subordinate, supposedly using some accompanying, unanchored, generalized
scale of behavioral descriptors (e.g., 'always finishes tasks on time'),
which are then conveniently 'added up' to get the subordinates 'overall
rating.' A convenient way to mechanize a non-mechanical process, and to
focus on people as 'human doings' vs.' human beings.'

This type of process obviously is pure bullshit, susceptible -- even
inviting -- to abuse of employees (especially if they are of a different
color, gender or persuasion that the rater)and US courts have tended to
throw out such appraisals. Employees learn avoidance and superficial
compliance behaviors, along the lines of what we used to know more
explicitly as a Plantation Mentality.

In summary, if one concludes that the only jusification for the rather
great cost in time, paper, moods, etc., of this process is to
systematically improve personal and organizational performance, then one
needs to be setting and observing standards of that macro-type, and
measuring the effectiveness of the micro-processes -- like PA -- in terms
of how well they are helping or hurting the goal.

We must be, as the Greeks say, 'teleoscopic' -- purpose-driven, not
activity-obsessed, both with respect to Performance Appraisal----------and
constructivism. Else we shall be like that second, larger group of people
in the movie The Poseidon Adventure: certain that they know the way, not
really open to discussion as to their accuracy, and ultimately speeding off
to their sad death; while the first group, led by the Right Rev. Gene
Hackman, slowly fights their way to true enlightenment, and salvation.

Say Hallelujah.

Say Amen.

Go ahead, brother.

Best wishes.
Gary from New Jersey.

> Dear Gary,
> Many thanks for your thoughfulness. I found the article amusing and
> relevantly practical!
> You mentioned "and other PCPers discussing Performance Appraisal"... I
> didn't know that there were other people undertaking such work in the same
> field as me (ie: using Kelly's (1955 / 1991) PCP and R.G.T.). How do I
> out "who's" out there? Is there a list of research areas and names? It
> ALSO be great to see what angles these people are taking in this
> area. Gary, are you in this catergory? :-)
> Cheers,
> Robert
> Hong Kong