Now that it’s January, many of you are preparing or have just finished preparing your annual performance reviews for your employees. Performance feedback is undoubtedly one of the most critical aspects of people development and one that deserves to be taken very seriously. But after 25 years of leading people, I will finally confess what I think about the whole process. I HATE performance reviews. I hate giving them.
I hate receiving them. Oh! I feel better letting this off my chest. Some of you may feel that there is a contradiction between my saying that feedback is critical in development and my disdain for performance reviews. that feeling if there was a real relationship between feedback and most of our current performance appraisal systems.
But it’s this lack of relationship between feedback and performance reviews that fuels my disdain. In fact, annual performance reviews have become just another task to tick and tick off on most managers’ lists, and no longer a tool for employee development. .And while performance reviews, and even performance appraisal systems, are noble ideas, they consistently fall short when it comes to providing quality feedback and growth goals for
employees. I have personally received 25 performance reviews in my career.
I can count on one hand those who have really helped me. But I received numerous reviews that were clear indications that my boss didn’t think the process was important. For example, one year I received a performance review where each category (about 18 of them) was flagged with the highest possible ratings. However, not a word was written about the rest of the review. Later I discovered this administrative assistant
The Vice President wrote the review. In my initial performance review, several areas were identified to improve my performance. A special point was a report he made every month. It had been wrong all year. When I asked why they didn’t tell me sooner, the response was “That’s what performance reviews are for.”
On another occasion, I was asked to provide information for verification. It’s not an unusual request, and I’ve accepted it by providing information on key objectives and abilities. My boss called me to explain that my information was not complete. I did not “provide information” but wrote the review. As an act of rebellion, I rewrote the review, giving myself the highest rating in each category, and justifying the reviews in laudatory and detailed language.
To prove my point (that nobody actually read or cared about the review), I left several sentences horribly incomplete and even included a “joke” in a category. The review was later submitted to me for signature and approved by my boss. and his boss without changing a word.