I have experienced a positive performance appraisal process, but it was so many years ago, I am surprised that I even remember it and all the specific details. However, as I started writing, the memories just surfaced on their own. I was 16 years old and working part-time at a Burger King restaurant as a cashier in Homestead, Florida. I remember that the managers that I had treated the employees well, and though they managed us and the restaurant very effectively, it didn’t feel like they ruled over us, but rather coached us like a team playing sports. I, speaking for myself, felt like I was a part of something important and that I was needed and appreciated on every shift. We had friendly competitions where we would cheer each other on to do our best for our team. High fives, congratulations, recognition of exceptional work, and rewards such as an unexpected milkshake at the manager’s cost made coming to work something to look forward to.
I learned so many more skills at this job than I have at any other job since; skills other than the average technical or aptitude abilities required to do the job I was paid to do. I learned how to cooperate and work together, even when it the tasks were monotonous or when working with less than favorable co-workers. I learned how to treat customers as if they were my own family coming to my home for a special dinner. I learned how to be observant and to first get a good idea of how someone else did their job, then to go to the manager and ask for a chance to work in new positions and learn new skills. I think the most important thing that I learned was that I should do my job the same at all times; meaning, when the district manager or the owner walked in, I didn’t start doing things differently or correctly because I could potentially be evaluated. I learned to do things right all the time and to do it the best that I could. A lot of these skills I have carried with me throughout my life and not just in a work environment.
Performance appraisals were always a positive experience at this job. We were always told a week or two in advance that it was due and encouraged to think of any questions about our duties and any concerns that we had that we may want to discuss. All the managers would meet to discuss each crew member at length, sharing their personal one on one experience working with the employee and collectively coming to an agreement about each aspect of the evaluation. By not leaving it up to just one manager, who may or may not have worked regularly with the employee, and having the input of every manager’s opinions, seemed to produce a much more accurate appraisal of our overall performance. When the evaluation was given to us, we were sat down with no specific time limit and first asked how we felt about our performance in each area of the review. Upon giving our answer, we were told what the management team had decided and why. We were then given a chance to respond and give specific examples if we disagreed, and then together we decided whether the score should be adjusted. At the end, we were given the floor to ask questions and express concerns, and conversations would go as long as necessary until both of us were satisfied with where we parted. I always felt good about the process, learned a lot of new things about what managers expected, better ways of doing things, and most important of all, I learned a lot of new things about myself.
I have always wanted to incorporate this same kind of process in the many restaurants that I have managed over the years, because the morale, motivation, job satisfaction, and sales growth that occurred as a result of that kind of work environment and dedication by management to develop the their employees to be the best they could be, both on the job and out in the world beyond, was very fulfilling and life changing. However, many of the restaurants have had strict policies in place and were very rarely open to doing things any different from the procedure that they were familiar with.