Down with performance reviews!

By November 13, 2016Blogs

I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

How many of you enjoy performance reviews? Me neither.

When I worked in corporate America, I couldn’t stand the ineffectiveness of performance reviews. For me, a performance review went like this. At the end of the year, my boss would ask me to fill out a self-evaluation, and he’d fill out his own evaluation of my work. I’d send him my evaluation and we’d meet to discuss both evaluations. I found out pretty quickly that there’d be a problem if the evaluations didn’t match up.

I’m typically hard on myself. I always think I can improve. The self-evaluation had sections that were ranked 1 to 5 – 1 being deficient and 5 being excellent. I ranked myself a 2 on nearly all the sections. Bad move. When I met with my boss to discuss the evaluations, he had ranked me a 4 on many of the sections. He said that the discrepancy would raise a red flag with HR. One of us must be completely delusional as to my abilities! What was delusional is that someone actually thought that a performance review was a good idea.

Typically, employees have to wait a year to have a formal review of their work. Why a year? I remember my first performance review like it was yesterday. I was hired in April. For the entire year, I didn’t hear a peep from my boss on my performance. No news is good news, I thought. I couldn’t be more wrong. I strode into my performance review confident, only to learn from my boss that my work wasn’t cutting it. The only nice thing he had to say about me was that I showed up on time. He couldn’t have brought up his gripes earlier? My example may be an extreme one, but it illustrates the point that a formal review at year’s end with no feedback beforehand is useless.

Typically, the performance review is the time when employees can make their case for a raise. Some companies won’t even entertain talk of a raise before then. Why? What if you find out you’re severely underpaid and want that to be addressed immediately? You have to wait a year to address it? Doesn’t seem fair to me.

I think the biggest beef I have with performance reviews is that they judge you based on goals set a year ago. But as we all know, goals change. Business strategies are often in flux. Your goals from January may be completely different from the ones in December. Which ones will you be evaluated against?

Performance reviews need to disappear. Not only are they stress-inducing, they’re not especially useful. If someone’s work needs improvement, don’t wait until the end of the year to let him know. If someone deserves a raise, award it. Goals change. Someone may spend a lot of time and effort on goals that are tied to a raise, only for those goals to be eliminated with a shift in business strategy. The employee won’t be rewarded for those goals, and that’s not fair.

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