As the end of the year approaches, managers and supervisors throughout the corporate world will begin having conversations with the employees who report to them. These conversations usually involve tools like a self-evaluation form completed by the employee, feedback forms completed by the supervisor, and possibly peer evaluations completed by co-workers.
There isn’t one part of the employee-employer relationship that isn’t as stacked against the employee as this process.
In a perfect world, these performance reviews could be valuable, with the manager offering specific tips for helping the employee reach his or her professional goals. Rather than this, most of the time these discussions are partisan, with each party selling its side without listening to the other. The employee’s function is clear: to present himself or herself in the best light. Employees have the opportunity to make sure their management is aware of the positive work that has been completed and any achievements made. Managers, on the other hand, use performance reviews to make sure their direct reports understand the areas where development is needed.
In companies where compensation is based on these performance reviews, this situation is more prevalent. In a discussion where performance leads to compensation, the manager represents the company and is always looking for ways to save money, particularly in salary-related expenses. On the other hand, the employee wants to justify a bonus and a raise.
As a result, the discussions are mostly useless because everyone has an ulterior motive.
On a rare occasion, it is possible for some insight to come from annual performance reviews, but anything worthwhile shouldn’t wait until a meeting that occurs once a year. The last thing an employee wants during an annual review is a surprise, as a boss criticizes a behavior that could have been changed or resolved months prior with effective communication and feedback.
Author Samuel A Culbert suggests eliminating this process in his book, Get Rid of the Performance Review and replacing it with more effective conversations.
Is the performance review an effective tool in your organization? Or do you avoid performance reviews by owning your own business and answering to no one other than your customers? If that is the case, your business’s success is largely a review of your performance, anyway. But not every job function produces results that are as tangible as the company’s bottom line. (If my performance was based on the financial success of the large company I work for, they’d crown me CEO.)
Published or updated November 24, 2010.