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Management: Are Performance Reviews A Relic of The Past?
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Management: Are Performance Reviews A Relic of The Past?- Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Are Performance Reviews A Relic of The Past?

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Are Performance Reviews A Relic of The Past?

If there are any aspects of office culture as universally disliked as the performance review, they are certainly few. That long walk from cubicle to conference room is like a parade of the sadder side of the human condition: we can read in them a spectrum of attitudes, none of them positive. There’s the let’s-get-this-over-with-I’ve-got-work-to-do brisk stride with accompanying annoyed face; there’s the this-is-it-it’s-been-nice-working-with-you-all trudge, as if the plodder is climbing steps to the sacrificial altar; there’s the I-challenge-you-to-find-fault-this-year Frankenstein-like march with set jaw. It would be funny if it weren’t so unpleasant. Nobody likes this ritual of professional tradition, neither those conducting the evaluations, nor those receiving them, so does their survival mean they are simply a necessary evil?

The easy answer is yes. Some kind of documented, quantified system is needed for keeping, dropping, promoting, and demoting the people we pay. One of the first chapters in the Manager Handbook is to leave a paper trail, to document everything. In our litigious society, this is sage advice. Aside from covering bases, however, there are other considerations, such as motivating employees to do better, whether through critical goal-setting or encouraging cheerleading. Additionally, the executives didn’t have their three-day retreat last spring for nothing; that mission statement needs to be addressed, and the team needs to be aligned with it, sometimes on a person-by-person basis.

The question is whether performance evaluations accomplish their goals. An article in The Atlantic reminds us that “The problem with many great workers is they know how great they are, which puts them near the danger zone of boredom. But the problem with many bad workers is they don’t know how bad they are.” Often, your good employees see the performance evaluation as little more than an interruption in their busy work day. They know what you’re going to say, and if there are any areas for improvement, they have already identified them and have taken steps toward addressing them. Since they’re good workers anyway, they assume they’re doing well if nobody says anything; they expect to be corrected when they make mistakes. Your bad employees need to be managed individually; the semi-annual or annual performance evaluation does little to improve their performance in a real-time manner that can turn them into good employees.

A Harvard Business Review article makes the case for reinventing the performance evaluation with this real-time strategy in mind. Citing recent research, it reiterates what we already know about efficacy, saying “more than half the executive questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance. They, and we, are in need of something nimbler, real-time, and more individualized—something squarely focused on fueling performance in the future rather than assessing it in the past.” Several major corporations have addressed this need by reinventing their performance evaluations, but most of them look like the same concept with different procedures.

One approach is the elimination entirely of the formal performance evaluation. Outside the formal documentation of these sit-downs, they don’t seem to accomplish much that good management doesn’t handle on its own. Yet an article on the Glassdoor blog suggests that “scrapped performance reviews must be replaced with some form of feedback mechanism. Without required, documented reviews, some employees may be able to slack off without repercussion. Others may fail to be recognized for their achievements. Additionally, companies that bypass reviews say it places a lot of responsibility on both managers and employees to have those difficult conversations that can fall through the cracks when not mandated.” This is certainly true, good management fosters an office environment where this kind of communication should be commonplace on a daily basis. As we get deeper into the concept of authenticity in corporate culture, many of the antiquated practices that we once relied upon will fall away, and not a moment too soon for the performance review.

The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-case-against-performance-reviews/283402/
HBR: https://hbr.org/2015/04/reinventing-performance-management
Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/pitfalls-performance-review/


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Management: Are Performance Reviews A Relic of The Past?- Executive Leadership Articles

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