The Truth About Performance Reviews

The Truth About Performance Reviews Graphic

Performance reviews are simply a waste of time and resources. They are often done on an annual basis and sometimes also referred to as performance appraisals. These employee reviews are many times the basis for advancement or a salary increase. Many companies like to describe them as something good for both the employee and employer. However, performance reviews are typically not any good at truly improving employee performance. The reason businesses like to use them is for power and control of the people they review.

Yearly reviews have never made any sense to me and they shouldn’t make sense to anyone else that gets one each year from their employer. Taking an entire year of how someone performed on a job is not only challenging to do, but it is also not realistic to say someone had a good or bad performance for an entire year. Waiting an entire year to evaluate someone’s job performance and talk about something they may have done six or eight months ago really does no good. Feedback is always better immediately and not having to wait long periods of time.

Evaluating an entire year of how someone performed on a job is not only challenging, it is also unrealistic.

Performance reviews are just simply a waste of time and not accurate. Here are ten reasons why.

1. Reviews take a lot of time and money.

Workers having to put together goals for the year and the managers that are required to review them just wastes time. I have had a few different employers in my lifetime that liked to use yearly performance reviews. It always took a few hours at the beginning of the year to set up goals for the year and discuss them with a manager. At the end of the year, the review time then consumed a few more hours. This is in addition to making changes and updates throughout the year and meeting with a manager on the progress.

2. Performance should not be measured by just one person.

Most companies will have a manager conduct the review. How can one person measure the success or failure of an employee that might work with many other people? Shouldn’t an employee’s performance be measured on how well they also work with others and how other people may perceive their performance? This would certainly be a more accurate measure of how someone may be performing on the job.

3. The purpose of a performance review is not always clear.

Although most people would be under the impression that a performance review is for pay increases, the truth is a positive review won’t really matter a lot of times when it comes to getting paid more. The review may be the basis of a salary increase, but it may also be used to build a case against someone to eventually terminate them.

4. Performance reviews are many times set up for some type of failure.

When it does come to increasing an employee’s pay there has to be a way to justify an increase. This will often depend on a company’s budget, which may already be set up for the following year at review time. If there is not much money in the budget for a worker’s pay increase, then there has to be a way to justify why they are not getting much of a raise or any raise at all. Performance reviews are designed to be subjective by the person conducting the review. They were not invented to benefit the employee and they can be used to control a budget.

Performance reviews can be setup for failure.

5. A disconnected direct report or manager may conduct your performance review.

It is possible that you might have a direct report you never see and this is the person that will be doing your review when the time comes. How can this be an accurate measure of your overall performance when it is done by someone that is never around to observe what really goes on?

This issue of an absent manager conducting a review occurs more often than people might believe. I have had this occur several times in my working time in the corporate world. I would either never see or hear from my direct report for weeks at a time. They would be traveling for business or be out of the office. How can this person know what happens and how I perform on a job if they are never around? An accurate performance review conducted by someone that is never around to observe is just not possible.

6. Politics make truthful conversations at review time not possible.

There is just never any way to completely eliminate politics at work. When it comes to employee reviews politics can make some conversations unavailable. Either a worker or manager may be reluctant to truly put everything out on the table for discussion.

7. There is no proof that performance reviews truly motivate people.

They may just do the complete opposite. If performance goals are set to high or unrealistic, an employee may just do enough work to stay employed. Performance reviews are likely more of a de-motivator rather than a motivator.

8. Terrible managers may be in charge of conducting reviews.

Not all people in a management position are qualified to be given the title. The truth is that there are many unqualified people in management positions. Having a person that does not have the training to conduct a good performance review is very possible. In addition, there is always the possibility that a manager may not care for certain employees. This could easily result in less liked employees receiving an undesirable performance review. Horrible bosses do exist in the workplace. Here is a previous article on identifying toxic work environments.

9. Performance reviews do not often reflect day to day job challenges and accomplishments.

Because reviews are most often done semi-annual or annual, they do not show what people do day to day many times. They only take performance as most recently seen in many cases. A true measure of daily performance is not easily configured into a review.

10. Having performance reviews is simply a form of control for employers.

Companies that use an antiquated annual or semi-annual review for employees is only really using them to dominate their workers. They send a message that any pay increases will be dependent on a performance review. Moreover, it sends a message that the manager or person conducting the review will be the deciding factor in any advancement in pay.

Performance Reviews - The purpose is not always clear

Final Word

Performance reviews still appear to be the standard method in which many companies use to look at how well employees perform on the job. I believe many employers truly know that annual or semi-annual reviews are an outdated form of looking at how their employees are doing on the job. Employers just choose to still use them because it is a good way to control a company’s budget and its employees.

There is just too much information available that shows performance reviews do not likely inspire employees to perform better on the job. A Gallup poll showed this with only 14% of the people surveyed stating that a performance review actually makes them want to improve their work. Combine this with managers not qualified to give reviews and the likelihood of open conversations truly taking place in a review not occurring due to politics. It just makes no sense to conduct performance reviews. They are a waste of time, money and resources to really see how workers are doing on the job.


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