But they can be a positive event for both sides if they crystallize a pattern of assessment and focus on potential. David Butcher reports.
For a process that's so well established in the corporate landscape, the performance appraisal is astonishingly unpopular. Employees dread it as an annual calling-to-account, a sinister session where they'll have to defend their record, bat off criticism and make a desperate pitch for a pay rise. Managers, on the other hand, see it as a bureaucratic chore, an hour of ticking boxes and mouthing platitudes that could be better spent on other things. According to the Institute of Personnel and Development, one in eight managers would actually prefer to visit the dentist than carry out a performance appraisal.
The bad news is that reviews are becoming more frequent - bi-annual, quarterly, monthly and even, in some eager firms, weekly. They have come to be seen as a vital component of a well-tempered company. And like so many once-intuitive features of business life, the appraisal has become more and more rigorous: a well-oiled mechanism devised by the folks in HR to calibrate every employee and map out their future.