Why I hate annual performance reviews

Here is a harsh reality that Corporate America wants to pretend isn’t true.

By the time you get to a performance review your raise, your bonus, your promotion, etc. have pretty much been determined. Now your boss gets to justify why you aren’t getting a raise or why you are getting a raise. If we’re looking to fire someone, the review may go from what would normally be mediocre to nitpicking everything we don’t like what an employee did over the review period. If an employee thinks they are doing a good job, they will often rate themselves highly. How do you account for the disconnect when an employee rates themselves as good while the manager rates them as bad? Doesn’t that expose the whole farce if the employee’s self evaluation carries no weight?

In other words, the annual performance review is a complete waste of time. They mean nothing and they accomplish nothing.

I like setting yearly goal plans. Mostly because I like to define targets and I think people should know what their goals are. However, if those goals are attainable, and they should be, why is it part of the performance review? A goal plan is something that should be reviewed and adjusted quarterly. Irrelevant or unattainable goals should be removed. Goals that are attainable but are in jeopardy should be addressed. Also, employees should receive regular feedback. I have told my managers many times that if an employee receives negative feedback for the first time in their annual review that their manager has failed them. There aren’t many bad employees out there, just a lot of mediocre ones. Managers have a tendency to turn mediocre employees into bad employees by not making expectations clear, by not giving direction, and by ignoring performance problems in the hopes that it will go away.

Also, the annual performance review does nothing to address how we turn mediocre employees into good employees. A mediocre employee is not going to have an ambitious goal plan. They will set mediocre goals that they can attain with mediocre performance. Then if their goal plan turns into their performance review, which it usually does at most corporations, the employee will get a mediocre review. I think I see a pattern here.

To get a top performer you have to coach, you have to praise, you have to criticize, and you have to do these things routinely. You have to establish a pattern of consistent punishment and reward. People are simple and respond well. If something they do gets them praise, they will continue doing it. If something they do lands them in the Principal’s office, they’ll avoid it. If they don’t avoid it, then maybe they are a trouble employee. However, you cannot spot these patterns or establish these patterns by doing something once or twice a year.

The annual performance review encourages mediocre management practices. If it has no teeth, do away with it. I have yet to work for a company that actually delivered anything based on an annual review. Get rid of it. Kill it. If your managers need an annual review to manage their staff, they are probably not good managers!

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Posted in Business, Managing Employees
3 comments on “Why I hate annual performance reviews
  1. Scott Powell says:

    Just my opinion but when you have a top performer, just stay out of the way.

    Dean Smith as great as he was did not coach MJ much. He just got him on the floor!

    Bottom line the dude with the most talent wins! Period.

    Therefore want to be a GREAT mangager, leader whatever name u want to call yourself

    Be a great recruiter and stay out the the way

    Just my two cents worth.

    SP back in!!

  2. wayfinder1 says:

    Largely in agreement. In fact we are in complete agreement on this point:

    “I have told my managers many times that if an employee receives negative feedback for the first time in their annual review that their manager has failed them. There aren’t many bad employees out there, just a lot of mediocre ones. Managers have a tendency to turn mediocre employees into bad employees by not making expectations clear, by not giving direction, and by ignoring performance problems in the hopes that it will go away.”

    Couldn’t possibly agree more. As for using the APR to get rid of people, I lived it. I was performing well, brought new ideas and programs to an institution that was struggling. Had nearly 6 years in when a new president came to town. He did not like the fact that I got along with everyone and that folks respected me more than they respected him – very narcissistic person. Made all sorts of nit-picky stuff up. I even hired an employment atty. as I started looking for new opportunities. So, I found a great new opportunity and then stole away two other top performers to work with me at another institution and wrote letters of recommendations for dozens more. I ended up leaving voluntarily and since then, over two years later, more than 100 people have left (the college only employs a couple of hundred) and I wrote recommendation letters for a good number of them. What goes around. . . .

    I also agree with waypoints. Somewhere out there is a study done with 3 group of Marines. This was on the “long march” that they do in boot camp. One group was simply told “today is the long march”, the next group was told about halfway through “we are halfway through” and the third group was updated and encouraged regularly during the march “only 5 miles to go” etc. Overall more Marines in the third group completed the march, and in record time. People need waypoints, goals and encouragement. You want to know if you have a good leader in a department, find out if there are goals and waypoints.

    • Rob Aught says:

      Great example with the Marines. When there is no end in sight it is easy to just start marching and eventually lose hope. Maybe the end isn’t in site, but a series of smaller attainable goals at least marks progress.

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