What Does Road Rage Have to Do with Performance?

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“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” – Dan Rather

We all like to think road rage is something that happens to other people.

Although, when faced with traffic congestion, a tailgater, or worse yet someone cuts us off, we become a whole different person.

Especially, when it comes to tailgaters or someone cutting us off in performance appraisals.

It often incites a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persuasion.

Traffic Light. digital painting by Alex Andreev

For this reason, Dr. Jekyll believed that there are two distinct sides to us — a good and evil side. We are all involved in an eternal struggle over which of the two will prevail.

Horrible consequences occur likewise when we let our dark side run wild. 

We turn into the animalistic Mr. Hyde, a version of ourselves of which we are not proud. If the evil side, likewise, is controlled, the good side can live without worry.

Moreover, if eliminated, there would be unlimited potential for good in the world.

By the time Dr. Jekyll made a change, it was already too late.

For this reason, here is a look at why road rage occurs in the performance management process, the roadblocks to preventing it, and above all things to consider before you turn into Mr. Hyde.

What Road Rage Looks Like

Road rage in the performance management process is an accumulation of aggressive driving maneuvers resulting from emotional distress. Any of these look familiar?

  • You and your coworkers lash out.
  • They switch lanes or make turns without using their turn signals.
  • They fail to check their blind spot before switching lanes, cutting you off.
  • Your boss regularly drives over the speed limit or tries to beat red lights because they are in a hurry to get performance appraisals done.
  • Your boss tailgates or flashes their headlights when they think you or your coworkers are driving too slow at work or are not behaving as they think you should be.

Traffic Congestion

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Change in performance management doesn’t occur just because it is a good idea; it happens when the pain in organizations and employees reaches a threshold. The traffic light goes quickly from green to red.

In other words, it is when leadership and employees no longer have the stomach for denying the status quo, contributing to threats of having to manage for economic decline.

Here is an example.

Mokita (talking about truths they all know about but agree not to talk about) can no longer be avoided at road junctions, pedestrian crossings, and roundabouts; it is in the company climate and culture, throughout the environment and ecosystems.

Change interventions and solutions, in essence, come when leadership and you become so pissed with one another trying to control the radio, slamming car doors, or overriding the navigation system because you know a shortcut.

Bad Drivers

Performance appraisals give you the freedom to move around the business space in your company.

Meanwhile, there is a growing boycott on annual review systems emerging at road junctions, pedestrian crossings, and roundabouts on the highway of the internet.

Only 6% of organizations, Bhaswati Bhattacharyya claims, think their performance management processes, are worthwhile.

Why is this, you ask?

It’s because of dangerous driving.

In other words, bad drivers are on the road behind the wheel of performance management. We can’t continue, likewise, to blame lousy weather or road conditions; it is way more than this.

Photo by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

As a leader, owning performance management seems like a brilliant idea, until you realize you are trapped in the vehicle for hours while looking for parking.

There is never a good time, in other words, for having performance appraisals, like having your vehicle serviced, is there?

We all know, not every driver on the road knows what they are doing.

Above all, I am keeping in mind the political climate, culture, business space, environment, and ecosystem of the company.

The performance management process can make you feel like you’re cutting across four lanes without signaling only to end up on a significant road facing oncoming traffic.

Lack of structure in the performance management process, importantly, is like coming back from grocery shopping only to find a giant dent in your door from the car parked over the lines next to you.

Meanwhile, driving performance management requires care and focus, but many leaders lack both.

They are too busy, texting while driving.


Driving with anxiety or suffering from vehophobia (fear of driving) impacts our daily life since most of us depend on performance management programs as rewards for our contributions.

These programs should not be the Archangels of Death waiting for us in road junctions, pedestrian crossings, and roundabouts within our companies.

Neither are they meant to be the perpetrators lowering morale, efficiency or likewise effectiveness of employees or their contributions to organizational capabilities.

Instead, it’s the Rank and Yank systems, where they rank employees against each other and yank those at the lowest end of the ranking, driven by vehophobia, that are like a sea of frickin’ air horns bringing on road rage.

This atmosphere originates from the mental models, mindscapes, mindshare, and behaviors of those driving recklessly behind the wheel – whether leadership, rank-and-file managers, or HR.

As a result, Rank, and Yank systems trade long-term investment in labor for new car shopping — buying talent instead of developing it in exchange for higher profits.

Blind Spots 

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Data is becoming the map for performance management road trips. 

In this scenario, data is captured as insights. For instance, Bhattacharyya and others contend that merging onto the highway of technological solutions track performance and contributions of employees on a regular basis, which reduces your blind spots.


However, consider this about tracking performance and contributions of employees on a regular basis.

“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. 

Employees don’t align, neatly and comfortably with hegemony – continuous performance measuring tools being used to measure zero-sum, win-or-loose performance.

Neither should employees fit comfortably within political correctness, be tick-the-right-boxers, or plug-and-players.

Employees don’t perform on command, nor respond well, to punishment when they do not. When they do, they do not keep doing so for very long, without developing an exit strategy.

Above all, neither are they driven by quantitative or qualitative information about their performance that is delivered every once in a while.

The Obsession With the Wizardry of Data

Bhattacharyya claims there is less risk of bias and predisposition of compromising on critical engagement levels with these tracking solutions.

As a result, employees can rely on this data being more credible and free from manager bias because data collection occurs in real time from current events.

Furthermore, managers no longer need to strain to recall the details about employees they are always evaluating.

Here is an example.

Tools being used to measure employee performance and contributions, automate the overall approach and processes of performance management.

Managers using this data, likewise, become empowered to conduct more meaningful coaching dialogues as a part of appraisals with their team members.

But we must remember that “obsession with the wizardry of data and technique often blinds not illuminates and becomes a form of addiction that turns professionals into data-junkies and their information into data junkyards.
— Edwin H. Friedman

As a result, the decreed “invincible” role of data going into performance management serves, more often than not, as an enabler and force multiplier, preserving the authority and power advantage that leadership and HR can have over employees. 

Blind spots caused by the minutia of data can create views presumed to be real, and not necessarily of what is real.

Addressing Road Rage: Maps, Directions, and Guides

The purpose of performance management is to inspire and improve behind the wheel while knowing you have AAA as backup and support.

So how do you get through the bullshit and address the road rage?

Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash

What’s Up With Your Performance Management Programs?

Consider these thoughts around your current program:

  • Does the leadership, including HR and your supervisor, expect of themselves the improvement in efficiency and effectiveness they expect of you? Are their appraisals transparent and congruent? Are they tracking performance and contributions utilizing the technology solutions being used throughout the company?
  • Is leadership willing to go deeper in discovering the bandwidth of insights that exist on performance management?
  • Is leadership aligned in wanting the performance process to become an authentic, continuous, and transparent process?
  • Has the elephant in the room been addressed or is there a sense of polite fiction when handling performance appraisals?
  • What are the ways forward, the calls to action, the next steps?
  • Does your boss, HR, senior leadership all talk the walk and walk the talk?

What’s Your Business Math?

  • Are your approaches, processes, programs including systems authentically value-added? For whom? How?
  • Value-added, to what?
  • Do these approaches, processes, programs not only inspire but also safeguard employees, so they dare to ask questions, to perform in ways that authentically matter? This optic can be quantified in traditional methods.
  • Exactly how do you know the business math (technological solutions, real-time tools, and mobile apps) you’re using to conclude someone’s performance is correct?
  • Do you know how your calculus (the study of continuous change), geometry (the study of shape), and algebra (the study of generalizations) for performance management are correct?
  • How do you know when they are not?

Photo by Alok Sharma on Unsplash

Shifting Gears

  • Do you and your co-workers have the ability to track the progress of your boss, HR, and senior leadership, on achieving their performance objectives and contributions to your company? 
  • What solutions are you using real time?
  • How often are you evaluating your boss, HR, and senior leadership?
  • How often are you using this data, to collect more meaningful coaching dialogues with your boss, HR, and senior leadership at your company?

Everyone has a choice as to how they will approach performance management – whether the employee or leader. It is a choice to tailgate, speed, cross lanes, ignore blind spots, and to be bad drivers.

What decision will you make before turning into Mr. Hyde?

“My knuckles are white and my face is bright red; Road Rage;
Doing 65 on a suped-up moped; Road Rage;
Is that you that gave me the finger? Road Rage;
How come you won’t turn off your blinker?” 

Road Rage lyrics. GET IN THE CAR! —By Jimmy Fallon