Performance Reviews: Dread Them? Ditch Them? Replace Them?

Are you a supervisor or employee who dreads filling out annual performance reviews or an employee who hates receiving them?

Here’s the verdict on reviews:

Gallup’s 2019 survey reports that only 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire improvement.1

According to 58% of executives surveyed, their company’s current performance management system produces neither higher performance nor employee engagement.2

Eight out of ten (83%) of HR managers surveyed report that their company’s performance assessment systems need overhauled.3

What’s wrong with most reviews?

  1. They don’t fix poor performers.
    1. Some managers fear giving negative ratings and may give problem employees “meets expectations” or higher ratings.
      1. This leads some mediocre employees to feel “I’m doing everything right; I don’t need to change.”
      2. This can result in legal difficulty should the employer later need to fire the employee.
      3. This doesn’t accomplish the goal.
    2. When an employee thinks s/he’s doing better than the manager does, and the review reveals this, the discussion can turn ugly.
      1. Employees may get defensive and stop listening.
      2. The manager/employee relationship can worsen.
      3. This not only doesn’t accomplish the goal, the review discussion makes things worsen.
  2. The review process doesn’t work.
    1. Some managers don’t know how to deliver reviews. Unable to turn review discussions into two-way conversations, they deliver a report card in a monologue.
    2. Some managers don’t give employees regular feedback. They may spring negative comments on their employees during the annual review. The resulting disconnect shuts down one or both parties.
    3. If the review process combines salary decisions with improvement-oriented information, the employee’s ears may focus only on what impacts his/her raise.
    4. Structured check-off forms with 0 to 5 ratings provide little usable information.

No wonder that many employers, sensing that performance reviews may do as much or more harm than good, have ditched them.  

What can employees put in place that actually works to:

  • Recognize and reward strong performers;
  • Identify areas needing improvement in all employees;
  • Allow managers and employees to agree on standards and how the employee can improve;
  • Help determine salaries and bonuses;
  • Provide crucial documentation helpful should a termination decision occur.

Here’s what works

  • Train managers and supervisors to give regular, frequent, honest feedback to employees.
    • This enables managers, supervisors, and employees to resolve problems when they’re small.
    • Strong performers receive frequent, positive recognition.
    • Regular feedback prevents perception disconnects surprising employees.
    • Employees who aren’t a good fit or aren’t accountable get information that helps them realize they need to move on.

  • Train managers and supervisors to coach.
    • This establishes a partnership such that managers, supervisors, and employees can work together to increase the employee’s performance and productivity.
    • When managers, supervisors and employees jointly set goals, and assess performance, they play on the same team.
    • Performance discussions, when conducted regularly, take less than twenty minutes.
    • According to the 2019 Gallup survey, when managers provide weekly, instead of annual feedback, employees are:
      • 5.2x more likely to strongly agree that they receive meaningful feedback
      • 3.2x more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work
      • 2.7x more likely to be engaged at work
    • For detailed information on how to coach, https://workplacecoachblog.com/2021/01/want-to-be-a-great-supervisor-do-a-180-coach/

Conduct 360-degree reviews on all employees.

360-degree reviews prove invaluable in convincing employees to make changes and in identifying where employees need coaching.  A 360-degree review provides you and your employee with clear, concise information concerning the employee’s strengths and the areas needing improvement.

Employees tend to trust 360-degree reviews because they present information from seven to eleven individuals.

The reviews assess twelve to eighteen areas providing a full picture of employee performance.

Finally, if you want a full (42K word) discussion for how to truly create accountable employees, check out Managing for Accountability: A Business Leader’s Toolbox, scheduled for release within 3 to 6 months from Business Experts Press.

1https://www.gallup.com/workplace/249332/harm-good-truth-performance-reviews.aspx#:~:text=It%20tends%20to%20feel%20forced,reviews%20inspire%20them%20to%20improve.

2https://getlighthouse.com/blog/get-rid-of-the-performance-review/

3https://www.npr.org/2016/09/28/495795876/yay-its-time-for-my-performance-review-said-no-one-ever

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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2 thoughts on “Performance Reviews: Dread Them? Ditch Them? Replace Them?

  1. <>

    It’s interesting to me how we are at the same place, every year, with respect to performance reviews. I find the subject of performance in the same “recurring cycle” as annual and bi-annual company survey results: survey(s) show the biggest problem is communication. Why is it everything being tried still has not fixed the situation?

    What’s key is teaching good management coupled with showing managers how to connect with each team member “at their core”. You cannot “survey” your way into synchronization with your team: you need to talk, interact, train, collaborate, cajole, elevate, praise, all the time and embrace correction in the most positive way whenever needed.

    The US Air Force teaches management (it was called PME back in the day) and stresses regular checkins to keep in sync with team members. Honestly, knowing your team is the best — most effective — way of keeping performance at an optimum.

    Thanks for sharing this article, I truly enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks, Steve, and you’re right, daily/weekly honest conversation and feedback and supervisors/managers who interact & coach are key. I’ve just finished writing Managing for Accountability and one of ten chapters focuses on coaching and all chapters focus on true engagement, management, leadership.

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