Today’s WSJ piece about making performance "feedback" language more positive to account for the feelings of employees to whom performance management is directed sends the wrong message to managers about the point of performance evaluations. I wrote about this topic recently and suggested that an effective performance evaluation should be a little bit like talk therapy. If an effective performance evaluation informs employees what they are doing well and how they can do better, that assessment can only happen based upon an introspective and interactive discussion. If performance evaluations are designed only to make employees feel better, then it seems to me this defeats the evaluation's core purpose. Watering down constructive criticism to make it nice, or to make someone feel better, misses the point.

Helping an employee do a better job serves the employer's purpose of hiring them in the first place. So it doesn't make sense to deconstruct the performance evaluation to deprive it of this goal. It is a fact of course that every human learns differently, and the WSJ piece highlighted an interesting approach one employer had taken, which was to ask each employee to share their preferred manner of receiving feedback (e.g., in person, by phone, virtually).

Understanding the individual ways employees learn could be useful in honing performance feedback for some employers if it can be practically and properly applied. And of course, feedback should be delivered in a balanced and professional manner. But abandoning the term "feedback" in favor of something else is unhelpful and distracts from the core legal construct of treating employees fairly when it comes to assessing their contributions. No one wants to deliver feedback that makes someone feel badly. But if putting someone in their feels puts them on the right career track, isn't that the right result?