Performance Appraisals: An Unnecessary Tool of the Past

Samuel Culbert’s Wall Street Journal article, “Get Rid of the Performance Reviews!” points out the unnecessary use of performance reviews in the workplace.    Culbert describes this process as one-sided, intimidating, subjective, and hindering to personal/team work.  Having been through several performance reviews over the years, I can completely relate to Culbert’s position.  Though I have yet to have a “bad” review, I distinctly remember the dread/fear of going into a manager’s office knowing it was review time, even to the point of having knots in my stomach all day up until that moment when it was finally over.  I think performance reviews create a lot of unnecessary anxiety, whether or not you think you are a good or bad employee is irrelevant because it all comes down to subjectivity.  

I think one of Culbert’s most important points is that wage increases are not really related to performance reviews.  Pay raises are ultimately a product of the market.  People can receive great reviews and still not receive a pay increase because the company does not have it in their budget.  Why then are performance reviews still so important in corporate culture?

Culbert offers an alternative: performance previews.  In this model, there is mutual feedback given by employee and manager that is triggered by breakdowns in the way they are working together.  I really like the idea of continuous mutual feedback.  I want to know that there is a problem before reaching the point of no return.  Discussing problems as they occur is more effective than waiting until the end of the year to point it out.  In addition, this type of model develops a relationship of what employees and managers need from each other in order to be successful rather than managers simply telling employees what they need from the employee and firing them if they don’t get it.  Why is the accountability placed all on the employee?  Why don’t we hold managers more accountable for individual employee success? 

Let’s face it, performance appraisals are useless and outdated.  If we can move to a model that actually promotes productivity/team work/trust, companies will be all the better for it.

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