Performance Reviews – Keep or Get Rid of?

Over the past 28 years, I have had to write many and receive a performance review. I have heard from many folks inside the company (and some experts outside) that performance reviews do more harm than good. I don’t have much experience of “no” performance review. When going up and going to school – we always got report cards! College was no different – report card. Some job applications still want to know what your GPA was from those days. When I went into the military – I got reviewed every year. As an officer, I had to write and deliver those reviews for my people. Go off to work in Corporate America, Intel, and performance appraisals were in place. I have never not had a review of one form or another… Maybe my opinion is bias, maybe it is just all that I know. I believe that the performance review is a necessary tool for any manager.

Why?

  • Provides a documented assessment of the overall performance that the individual has performed over the past 12 months.
  • Backs up the overall normal performance management that you as a manager should be doing throughout the year.
  • Gives feedback on overall performance relative to their peers (at least everyone that I have been associated with – have). That was the most meaningful piece of feedback to me. I had some understanding of how well (or not) I was doing within the team, but this feedback helped me with an outside set of eyes.
  • Helped build on my strengths.. Let me focus on the areas that need to improve on – that we important to my job.

Maybe it was me, maybe it is my competitive spirit or maybe I have to “see” how well I am doing! I ran across a this study – This paper examines the impact of performance reviews on productivity, and finds that feedback delivered on a regular basis, whether positive or negative, tends to result in improved performance. On a short-term basis, though, the impact varies, sometimes in ways that are counter-intuitive: Positive reviews, for example, do little to boost productivity, and negative reviews that are somewhat vague and indirect cause performance to fall off, but reviews that are directly negative cause productivity to leap. The research offers guidance to managers concerning the pitfalls and potential benefits in framing their messages in reviews, and suggests there is a need to provide feedback on a frequent basis.

For me, I still believe that performance reviews are necessary.. If done right are a powerful tool in your manager toolbox. What say you?

  • Annual performance reviews, done right, could be good. I have yet seen a company or manager do them right. Why? Because they are so hard for the manager and employee to do correctly. Documenting weaknesses and accomplishments for an entire year, then reporting and discussing them is just ineffective.

    – Feedback, positive and negative, is far more powerful the closer in time they are to the event. If someone tells me I did well or poorly on something six months ago, how does that help me or the past work?
    – Discussion of weaknesses and accomplishments should be happening in small doses every day or at least every week.
    – Annual reviews don’t create a relationship of trust that allows for real and consistent change.
    – Annual reviews also do not allow for a two-way conversation and are usually a manager talking down to an employee. When is the opportunity for the employee to review the manager?
    – So the manager is supposed to be a stalker for a year, watching and recording behavior and actions so to spring it on subordinates at an arbitrary day. That does not engender trust.
    – As an employee, it is in my best interest to hoard work, hide knowledge and play a social game so my annual review goes well.
    – Annual reviews are a test of conformance to the system but don’t allow for questioning of the company’s system.

    I could go on. Reviews need to happen in the now, building a relationship between the employee and the manager. Reviews need to happen in all directions, of the individuals, team, department and company. Reviews need to be part of how you work, not a special ceremony.

  • @openid-10773:disqus – Thanks for commenting. I completely agree that most performance reviews are not done well..

    I look at the performance management as a year round activity – that ends with the year in review (performance review). There should never be a one time discussion on performance. That fails! Being the relationship between manager and subordinate is a daily activity. Performance management is something that may or may not be a daily activity (depending on situation) – but it does need to be regular and timely. Having those discussion on strengths, weaknesses and career development on a on-going basis (structured or unstructured) is critical. The review at the end of the year – is end of that year’s discussions (closed) and starting the new year off… Most companies put in raises, stock or some sort of compensation – goes hand in hand (with that process).

    I like to think that I did a pretty good job with mine. I wrote about my process in past posts. The key is making performance a year round discussion.

  • @openid-10773:disqus – Thanks for commenting. I completely agree that most performance reviews are not done well..

    I look at the performance management as a year round activity – that ends with the year in review (performance review). There should never be a one time discussion on performance. That fails! Being the relationship between manager and subordinate is a daily activity. Performance management is something that may or may not be a daily activity (depending on situation) – but it does need to be regular and timely. Having those discussion on strengths, weaknesses and career development on a on-going basis (structured or unstructured) is critical. The review at the end of the year – is end of that year’s discussions (closed) and starting the new year off… Most companies put in raises, stock or some sort of compensation – goes hand in hand (with that process).

    I like to think that I did a pretty good job with mine. I wrote about my process in past posts. The key is making performance a year round discussion.