Performance managament raises work stress
Performance managament raises work stress

Offices using performance management (PM) techniques are damaging workers' mental health, claims the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC).

Managers use performance management to bully staff they wish to see leave the firm, according to a three year-long study.

An ill-founded fondness for statistical analysis and abstract models such as the bell curve can damage a business, the report claims.

Fear and intimidation are common for many workers, said Prof Phil Taylor of Strathclyde University.

He authored Performance Management and the New Workplace Tyranny and said that performance management practices were unacceptable.

"People are certainly not being treated as an organisation's most valued asset," he said.

"The widespread experience of employees is of top-down, highly pressurised and intensified work, with most facing an array of often unachievable targets.

"Workers are being increasingly tightly monitored and measured and then placed into performance appraisal categories."  

The Institute of Directors (IoD) told IBTimes UK  that the report's findings were exaggerated.

"There may be cases of bad practice but that's a minority," said IoD director David Watt. "Employers do not go around deliberately causing stress.

"When you have a target culture then everyone becomes concerned to reach the targets and I'm sure there are cases when things go wrong but to suggest this is a special issue is too strong."

The study collated interviews with 31 union representatives and gathered evidence from 21 union conferences for research in Scotland.

Statistical analysis was used by firms to identify staff to cut in order to reduce labour costs, resulting in heavier workloads for the remaining staff who themselves were subject to further performance management, said the study. 

"We were being asked to find grounds to get rid of people without having to pay for it," said one manager in the study. "If we could not find them, we would have to make up the grounds for managed exits.

"In my section of 80, nine people were managed out of the organisation on performance grounds.

"On the company website it describes PM as about coaching, developing people and improving their performance. Yet in practice, my ex-colleagues are spending about 80 percent of their time on action of one sort or another against under-performers.

"What matters is only the last quarter's performance management. You can go from being an 'excellent' performer to 'development needed' within a quarter. The organisation's motive is clear - they are out to get you out. It is a horrible and inhuman way for people to be treated."