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

Performance reviews: Dread them? Ditch them? Replace them? – Law Office Manager (

By Lynne Curry

Do you dread filling out annual performance reviews? Do you wonder about their effectiveness? You aren’t the only one with doubts. A Gallup survey reports that only 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire improvement.According to 58% of executives surveyed, their company’s current performance management system produces neither higher performance nor employee engagement.And 8 out of  10 (83%) of HR managers surveyed report that their company’s performance assessment systems need to be overhauled.3

What’s wrong with most reviews?

  • They don’t fix poor performers. Some managers fear giving negative ratings and may give problem employees “meets expectations” or higher ratings. This leads some mediocre employees to feel “I’m doing everything right; I don’t need to change.” This can result in legal difficulty should the employer later need to fire the employee. This doesn’t accomplish the goal.
  • When an employee thinks s/he’s doing better than the manager does, and the review reveals this, the discussion can turn ugly. Employees may get defensive and stop listening.
  • The manager/employee relationship can worsen. This not only doesn’t accomplish the goal, the review discussion makes things worse.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If the review process combines salary decisions with improvement-oriented information, the employee’s ears may focus only on what impacts his/her raise.
  • 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 employers 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.

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 20minutes.

According to the 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,

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 7 to 11 individuals. The reviews assess 12 to 18 areas providing a full picture of employee performance.

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

  1. I always thought one of my primary tasks was to provide a pathway, the knowledge, and the experience needed for the staff under me to do my job better than I could. Or maybe I am just lazy!

  2. IMHO and experience the three biggest things wrong with employee evaluations are: 1) they are rarely ‘honest.’ On a 10 scale – five is AVERAGE/meets expectations, and only the absolutely most stellar performer will be a nine or 10. But every employee gets their nose bent if they aren’t consistently rated higher than a seven, and every supervisor catches hell for (honestly) rating anyone below a seven. The artificially-inflated rating scheme of everything is just this way, and;
    2) most employees don’t understand this/don’t deal with it as they should, and most supervisors don’t do anything to correct this, and;
    3) follow-up is rarely done correctly or adequately.
    Been there, done that – from both sides.

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