Yes, performance reviews still suck

Samuel Culbert is not a fan of performance reviews:

To my way of thinking, a one-side-accountable, boss-administered review is little more than a dysfunctional pretense. It’s a negative to corporate performance, an obstacle to straight-talk relationships, and a prime cause of low morale at work. Even the mere knowledge that such an event will take place damages daily communications and teamwork.

Culbert is a professor of management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles and author of the excellent book Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing–and Focus on What Really Matters.

In this excellent article, he sums up his main arguments against performance reviews, which include:

  • The mind-sets held by the two participants in a performance review work at cross-purposes.
  • It’s a myth that performance determines pay.
  • They disrupt teamwork.

I agree completely. Waaaaay back in 2008, I wrote about my top 10 reasons why performance reviews suck.

Culbert even offers an alternative – the performance preview:

The alternative to one-side-accountable, boss-administered/subordinate-received performance reviews is two-side, reciprocally accountable, performance previews.

The boss’s assignment is to guide, coach, tutor, provide oversight and generally do whatever is required to assist a subordinate to perform successfully. That’s why I claim that the boss-direct report team should be held jointly accountable for the quality of work the subordinate performs. I’m sick and tired of hearing about subordinates who fail and get fired, while bosses, whose job it was to ensure subordinate effectiveness, get promoted and receive raises in pay.

Holding performance previews eliminates the need for the boss to spout self-serving interpretations about what already has taken place and can’t be fixed. Previews are problem-solving, not problem-creating, discussions about how we, as teammates, are going to work together even more effectively and efficiently than we’ve done in the past. They feature descriptive conversations about how each person is inclined to operate, using past events for illustrative purposes, and how we worked well or did not work well individually and together.

The preview structure keeps the focus on the future and what “I” need from you as “teammate and partner” in getting accomplished what we both want to see happen. It doesn’t happen only annually; it takes place each time either the boss or the subordinate has the feeling that they aren’t working well together.

What a fantastic idea!

Your take

What do you think – do you personally find, that performance reviews make you happier and more effective at work? Is it a process you actively enjoy? Please write a comment, I’d love to hear your take.

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4 thoughts on “Yes, performance reviews still suck”

  1. I think having team performance reviews are better where we can see how we did as a team in the company and how we can improve for the future.

  2. I have always thought that performance reviews are a waste of time. As a consultant I participated in several projects that required the participants to receive performance reviews and then learn how to process them with others. What I learned as a consultant: Unless the manager already pocessed a moderate level of emotional intelligence, no amount of training was helpful. I believe that whether a manger is participating in a performance review or preview, the key is a manager who possesses self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and coaching skills.

  3. I totally agree & believe that whether a manager is participating in a performance review or preview, the key is a manager who possesses self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and coaching skills. This is very rare – & the Manager can be very negatively critical. (causing more damage then anything). A few collegues have mentioned that they dread the Performance reviews for fear of being criticised & achivements down played… Others say its a total waste of time for them especially as the people leader has no idea about the business or who we are as individuals.

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