Performance Appraisals Should Focus on Performance, Not Personality

By Charles Pfeffer

Apr. 16, 2001

The Men’s Wearhouse emphasizes providing constructive feedback as part of the coaching and development effort and as a way of building initial self-esteem. On the first day at Suits University, Charlie Bresler tells the wardrobe consultants that one of the company’s expectations is that they will be open to feedback from others who are helping the individual become more skilled at implementing the sales philosophy and techniques.

The company encourages people to provide praise when they see someone doing something right. But constructive criticism is also important in building self-esteem. Bresler said:

“You know why constructive criticism is one of the best ways to build up self-esteem? It’s because ultimately the single best way to feel good about yourself is to do a better job. And the best way to do a better job is to get good coaching and criticism so that you know not only what not to do, but also what to do.”

The Men’s Wearhouse emphasizes feedback that is behaviorally specific, focused on actions and behaviors that can change. This is, of course, a sensible approach because it makes the feedback actionable.

It is, however, frequently violated in many other companies’ performance appraisal and performance management systems in which characteristics — such as conscientiousness, intelligence, and being personable — rather than specific behaviors and actions become the focus of attention and evaluating. Below are some elements of the Men’s Wearhouse performance review for both wardrobe consultants and store managers.

We present this material in some detail not because most readers are managing retail stores, but because it is a wonderful example of one company’s ability to develop a list of specific actions necessary for success and to implement and continually refine a performance management process that is focused on these specific behaviors.


Performance Review Form


Wardrobe consultants are evaluated on the following factors — and graded as above standard, meets standard, below standard, and unsatisfactory

  • Greets, interviews, and tapes all customers properly
  • Participates in team selling
  • Is familiar with merchandise carried at local competitors
  • Ensures proper alteration revenue collection
  • Treats customer in a warm and caring manner
  • Utilizes tailoring staff for fitting whenever possible
  • Involves management in all customer problems
  • Waits on all customers, without prejudging based on attire, age, or gender
  • Contributes to store maintenance and stock work
  • Arrives at work at the appointed time and is ready to begin immediately
  • Dresses and grooms to the standards set by TMW

Managers and assistant managers are evaluated on the following factors — and graded as above standard, meets standard, below standard, and unsatisfactory

  • Engages in quality sales coaching
  • Uses multiple selling techniques
  • Maintains and coaches floor awareness
  • Ensures proper alteration revenue collection. Audits alteration tickets
  • Greets and welcomes customers
  • Participates in 15-day customer service calls
  • Ensures that customer policies relative to pressings, fittings, realterations, alteration appointments, charges, and specials are communicated consistently
  • Responds to employee concerns on a timely basis
  • Conducts weekly Saturday morning meetings that have positive formats
  • Helps resolve personnel problems
  • Communicates clear expectations to staff. Helps each individual set, monitor, and achieve their personal behavioral goals


This article was reprinted with permission of Harvard Business School Press. Excerpt of Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People by Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer. Copyright 2000 President and fellows of Harvard College; All Rights Reserved.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with