The Annual Employee Performance Review: both boss and employee respond with an "Ugh!" to this event. How could we justify getting rid of these archaic and unproductive exercises?
Does the process help boost organizational output, increase throughput? Doubtful. Does it make the employee feel good? Unlikely. One would be motivated to ask the logical question: "Why do we keep doing them?" I would say: "It's a bad habit for which we...yet have no replacement."
"First, they're dishonest and fraudulent. And second, they're just plain bad management," writer and UCLA professor Culbert says in a radio interview the week of July 6.
Tough talk from (what looks like) a not-so-friendly-looking guy. (I wouldn't want a Review from the likes of him!) But, he's right: performance reviews don't do much to get out in the open the challenges in the business nor facilitate a discussion of the possible solutions.
Employees come to the process anxious about its impact on their pay or career. Supervisors, managers are given a limit of how much the pay can be increased and, that small view, becomes the focus of the discussion: what did you do well? -- and, of course, that becomes the employees shield -- and how much more money am I going to give you. Which, of course, the boss knows before he heads into the Review.
People want their work to matter, to mean something. And, the annual Review doesn't facilitate such a goal. The process is devoid of humanity, in many cases.
"Once you set up the metrics, that's the only focus for the employee," Culbert says. "The problem with performance reviews is that the metric that counts most for the employee is the boss's opinion. So the employee starts doing what he or she thinks is going to score in the boss's mind, and not even talk about what he or she believes is necessary for the company to get the results that really matter."
With what should we replace these arcane practices? Well, first, how about a review of the successes and lessons of the last year? What did I do well...where did I fall down...what did I learn....how did I contribute to the organization's well being?
Aren't these important topics for a candid review?
Then, how about a frank discussion where, perhaps, the boss provides some clear targets for the employee that are aligned with the goals of the organization, the unit? Good. Another major problem solved.
I could go on all day like this, solving problems, helping to make organizations better places to work; better suppliers to buy from, and; focused on excellence instead of mediocrity or...just surviving. After a while, survival has no meaning, no motivating sting for me to get up and do something.
For anyone who would like to gauge where they stand on the annual review issue, Culbert and Rout have posted a test on their site, with the slightly biased title of How Much Do You Hate Performance Reviews?