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A look at workplace politics and their effect on performance

Workplace politics and power structures can be like walking a minefield, but it’s vital the influence they have on performance management is kept to a minimum, or eliminated altogether, if employee performance is to be measured properly.

A businesses leadership structure can have a quantifiable effect on the performance appraisal system. Managers, supervisors and employees alike can possess varying degrees of authority through the different levels of the business, which cab significantly impact a performance appraisal system, particularly when it’s made up of multiple accountabilities.

A robust system will include many levels of both behavioural requirements, along with performance targets relevant to the role. These could be required levels around service delivery or manufacturing output for example.

Now whilst a vertical leadership structure may be effective in terms of the day-to-day running of the business, when it comes to implementing an adequate performance appraisal system, such a structure could prove difficult for your HR consultants to manage. The less that people have the responsibility for allocating tasks, setting criteria and performance and are charged with ongoing performance appraisal, the easier it will be for your HR consultants to drive organisational performance through an effective performance management and appraisal system.

Now, businesses should not view performance management as a hinderance, or something that takes up too much time. Performance management is an ongoing communication process. Managers should not allow the staff to treat the process as a game, or as a means of extracting favorable treatment or increases in remuneration. Indeed, I would advocate that performance management not be linked in any way to increases in wages or conditions, unless such initiatives form part of an enforceable industrial instrument, and as an offset to wages increases (productivity gains).

All appraisals must be done on complete and adequate data, and must maintain a high degree of political balance between the employee’s needs and the needs of the organisation. While workplace politics can be like walking a minefield, it is paramount that the influence it has on performance management is kept to a minimum, or not at all.

Contrary to popular belief there are no “one size fits all” performance management systems. Every employer across every industry will have a different system. That’s not to say that they are all right or wrong, but there are some fundamental bricks that must form the foundation of all performance management systems.

  • A clear communication strategy;
  • A commitment to ongoing performance appraisals; and
  • An acceptance of employee “buy in” to the process.