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How to Improve Morale at Your Office

Updated on December 21, 2015
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

Those annual evaluations!


The Definition of Insanity

"Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result."

For years the standard wisdom in business has been to tie annual raises to annual employee evaluations. They are time-consuming for the managers. They are invariably discouraging for employees. And the bottom line is that most businesses can only give what pay increases they can afford out of their annual profits, if any, no matter how well an employee performs.

Somebody, somewhere, years ago came up with the idea that the best way to improve an employee's job performance was to identify a good incident, then identify a poor incident, and follow up with a good incident. What this theory did not take into consideration was the fact that a good employee will only hear the poor incident. The better the employee, the more insignificant the poor incident no doubt was. So the message to the employee who has done an excellent job over the past year is this: No matter how small the mistake, at the end of the year it will be dug up and put on your record so your manager can say they came up with something on which you need to improve. And this process is supposed to result in better performance?

Do they do more harm than good?


'The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves'

A new trend is emerging.

It is the potty-training school of thought in modifying the behavior of employees. Simply catch them when they are doing something wrong. Direct them to the correct method. Leave them alone to do it. Voila!

It is the same conclusion emerging managers are coming to in the area of dress codes. Instead of punishing everyone for the inappropriate behavior of the few, deal with the few as problems arise.

The Kansas City Star recently dealt with the issue of annual employee reviews and came to the conclusion, "Abandoning forced rating systems puts terrific pressure on managers to give timely and effective feedback to their employees." Isn't that a good thing? Isn't that what a business has managers for?

It is not uncommon for upper management to instruct lower level managers to conduct annual reviews for the purpose of controlling pay raises. Not everyone can receive an increase, so they create a method for rating employees in order to avoid across the board raises. Some even have limits to what percent of any one department can receive an increase. In this scenario, no matter how good the group of employees, only some will get a raise. In the recent economy many businesses have gone through the process of evaluations knowing there was no money at all for any increases. Employees should be grateful to still have a job. Fair enough. But if that is the case, why put the people working for you through the process of being graded on their performance?

Social scientists have recently found that evaluations accomplish little more than spreading discontent among workers. Praise when praise is due and correction when necessary accomplishes more productivity than the dreaded annual review. I once worked for a huge organization that devoted one month a year, November, to evaluating all employees. This company also had the policy that only a percent of any department could receive a pay increase each year. It was without fail the most dreary month of year with a disproportional number of sick days taken and the lowest productivity compared to the other eleven months. Eventually the company abandoned the process.

Morale Killers.

Fail to Motivate.

Time Consuming.


You'd think more businesses would stop and ask themselves, "And we're doing this, why?"

Your experiences with evaluations

Have you found evaluations to improve employee performance?

See results

Some good examples of dealing with an employee's performance and some not so good:


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 17 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      As I'm the only one in my office, I beat myself up and then have to apologise! Interesting hub.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 17 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I know what you are talking about. I'm self-employed at the moment also, and I can tell you, my boss is a real bitch sometimes! But every once in a while she takes me out to lunch so . . . But I worked out there in the jungle for 30 years and I've never seen the benefit of universal evaluations. Thanks for jumping in!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 17 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      That made me smile - a fellow feeling! It is a jungle out there.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Yes, yes, and yes. I wish I could say Academia is totally different, but not so... except that we write our own evaluations!! Which is not actually a good thing.....There is an eight to fourteen page grid of boxes to fill in and it takes hours and you have to predict what you think you will do next year. After reviewing the Dean makes a 4-5 sentence comment and signs it. Even very good end of year assessments often come with no salary increase at all. Very disheartening. Good hub, Good issues. Managers need to do their jobs. Sharing.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Companies are moving to this thing of an employee writing their own evaluation, which confirms two things: Managers find this process a waste of their time, and they have enough power with management to put the chore on their employees instead of them. And a third: Obviously management and supervisors don't really expect anything to come from this process. They are going to do whatever they are going to do anyway.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      True, terribly wrong and unfortunate for employees, but true.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 14 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      When I worked for the federal government, I regularly received very good annual evaluations. The problem was that I didn't receive a grade promotion for the last 20 years I worked for the government. Yes, I was stuck as a GS-13 until I finally retired in 2007. Affirmative action and the accompanying reverse discrimination against elderly white males like me didn't help either.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I sympathize. My daughter has been waiting for GS 12 for several years thanks to sequestration. She is also competing with veterans who have preference - which she would tell you is exactly how it should be. She's never had anybody shoot at her! That should earn you something.

      I'm glad you got good reviews in spite of delayed promotions. Too often in the civilian world a manager has to search a good employee's record for one small mistake to justify no raise/promotion.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 2 weeks ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      For many employees, it is time for these evaluations again. And they would rather have their teeth drilled.

    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 7 days ago from England

      Interesting read, the American style of ‘performance pay’ through self-evaluation was introduced in the UK a good many years ago. However, if I’ve read your article correctly the big difference is that performance pay in the UK tends to account for a small percentage of the pay rise e.g. 10%; so everyone would get the vast bulk of the pay rise with a few people getting a little extra.

      In practice (in the UK) incentive pay makes little difference as most people get a pay rise and most British people (like most Europeans) are not primarily motivated by money. Most British people put quality of life above financial gain; so generous working conditions e.g. flexible working and annual leave (which is generous in the UK) has a far greater impact on morale in the work place than money in Britain.

      In the UK the minimum legal entitlement for annual leave is 5.6 weeks, plus Bank and Public holidays; although many companies round it up to six weeks leave. Also, if you are on flexible working hours you can also build up enough credit time (if you put in the hours) to take up to a further 3 days off work a month; and then save up your annual leave for a couple of long breaks throughout the year.

      Flexible working culture in two major UK companies; John Lewis (Retail) and Ford (Manufacturing):

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 7 days ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Arthur: Fascinating. Thanks for adding this information to my hub.

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