Performance Reviews Might Just Be the Problem

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's the time of year when companies around the nation ask employees and employers to have what's usually an awkward conversation: the 'performance review.' We'll be hearing from a management professor who thinks we should simply do away with them entirely. Do you have to do one? Do you have to conduct one?  Are they helpful, or is there a better way to get the information across?

Samuel Culbert believes we should be eliminating the performance review from the modern workplace. He lays out all his reasons why in his new book “Get Rid of the Performance Review!

Natasha Terk disagrees. A business communications and management consultant, she’s the author of “Writing Performance Reviews.”


Samuel Culbert and Natasha Terk

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [5]

JF from Providence RI

I think they work well in a small business environment where employees have a broader stake the success of the business. I work for a boutique consulting firm and my manager designed a comprehensive performance review (the best I have ever been exposed to) and it helped us during my early years with the firm. We have a collaborative process and input on the review process so it always stays relevant and fair. This has not been my experience within large scale organizations.

Aug. 03 2010 11:39 AM
Eric from Texas from Texas

I am a high level manager and have been told directly to do evaluations based on a bell curve due to the fact that the organization had only budgeted so much for performance bonuses. In theory this may be fine if everyone had the exact same job description. But this isn't the case. I think Samuel Culbert is correct. Let's do away with performance reviews. When you connect a pay raise or bonuses to a performance review and there is a budget crunch, I would bet the farm that the average score is less during trying economic times. Conversely, during the good times, somehow everyone scores a little higher.

Jun. 15 2010 03:35 PM
Ken from Boston

One year, a reviewer admitted to me that she was giving everyone poor marks in one specific area regardless of individual performance.

That was particularly galling to me because it happened to be an area where I took special care and made extraordinary efforts.

When I challenged her, she said "Oh, no, you're work is great but WE think everyone can do better." In other words, all the managers had gotten together to conspire to make the department seem like it was screwed up in this one area. The managers, having identified this "problem," could then turn to their bosses to announce how they were cracking down on the staff.

Another flaw in performance reviews is that everyone knows what corporate speak they should insert into the sections on "career goals" and "areas needing improvement." Whether it's "synergy" or "team work" or "customer focus," you put the gibberish down and then immediately forget about it, because, who cares?, nobody is reading these things anyway.

If you want to improve performance reviews, then give people clear guidelines and benchmarks for the coming year. The next year's review should largely be based on how well the employee did in adhering to guidelines and reaching benchmarks.

Jun. 15 2010 09:32 AM
John Morse

The problem with performance reviews is many times just an ignorant reviewer trying to justify giving no raise -- with no facts what-so-ever!
A typical example: I worked at a relatively large company and as usual in the Spring as I was passing by my "boss's" office, he yelled out only my last name (this was typical). When I stuck my head into his door, he said to come in and close the door behind me, saying "I have to give you a (swearing) performance review!"
"I think that you have been doing a great job, but the one problem that you have is that you only focus on the job assigned to you, you don't focus on the big picture."
I asked to be excused for a minute to go to my office. When I returned, I put copies of three patent disclosures just recently filed which were only in my name. None of them had to do with the project on which I was currently working.
He looked at them briefly, and then said that he had to think up another reason for a negative in my review. I refused to sign it.
A year or so later when I was working on a completely different project, this same man invited me to a Friday late afternoon 'brainstorming' session as to how to redesign an existing product. I was the only one who came up with a creative solution. I worked on it at home over the weekend and sent the results to him Monday morning. He got back to me saying that it was a great idea, but that I shouldn't work on it on "Company time"!
When I wanted to retire (partly due to this type of treatment and the general negative attitude at the time), they (three different managers) begged me to stay. One said that talking with me about product improvement ideas, that it was like "drinking from a fire hose!" I left anyway - and did product invention of other companies for the next ten years.
My only philosophy was to invent and develop better products. It used to be exciting (smile).

Jun. 15 2010 08:21 AM
A. Arlos from Boston, MA

So glad you are back (J.H). I can't usually tell difference between you and Todd Z.(same voice) but then you will say something so funny & off that I know its you! Love your doofus ways!

Jun. 15 2010 07:19 AM

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