I Met Expectations: 5 Reasons Why Performance Management Needs to Change
September 2, 2019
We love performance reviews, although we know we’re not in the majority; just check your social network of choice any day of the week and you can see how unloved the poor things are. But why? And does it have to be that way?
1. Performance Reviews are Demotivating
Traditional reviews create and enforce a one-sided power base, with employees typically on the back foot. Employees know reviews are coming & dread them, and so morale drops for ages beforehand.
Meanwhile, managers have to give all the year’s negative feedback in one hit. They’re only human (mostly) & hate this - especially when employees are also friends. To top it off, everyone has to be careful what they say, leading to forced & unnatural conversations. That’s fun for no one.
2. Performance Reviews Aren't Useful
They’re actually pretty hard work, which would be fine if they were also useful. But what usually happens is managers spend a lot of time gathering a lot of information on employees, and that information goes...nowhere. That’s a lot of wasted effort - you’d hope to get something in return for all that work!
3. Performance Reviews Create Bad Managers
Why are we doing performance reviews? Because we want to get better performance out of our people and improve behavior. Feedback is important, but great feedback can be given in three minutes in a corridor - so why all the paperwork? Why do we get it so wrong?
Managing people should be a continuous process, not an occasional (or rare) one.
Useful feedback should be candid and timely, allowing for resolution and closure - not collected and given at some future point where it means nothing & can’t be acted on. Traditional reviews encourage managers to find something to fix for every employee (even if nothing’s broke). This has to stop!
4. Performance Reviews Ignore Team Dynamics
Managers are used to managing teams as teams - not as individuals, which is what most reviews force them to do. It’s much easier to say ’Sally is a better leader than Jim’ than it is to decide whether Sally deserves a 3 or 4 in leadership.
5. Performance Reviews Remove Information from the Organization
Met expectations? Good for you! But what did you do? Does anyone know? Can they find out?
Reviews remove context: which you need in order to underst and interpret what happened. Reviews summarize and compress information: but you need details to embrace subtlety, complexity, interactions...that’s where the good stuff is.
Even worse! The traditional performance management process tries to normalize people performance under a bell curve, ignoring the fact that things change over time.
Some years you just have better people, who perform better! To manage the business well you need to have this information to act on. Try normalizing the company’s P&L and see how far that gets you.
We Can Fix It
We think performance management can be rescued. We still need reviews - as long as they’re REALLY USEFUL and:
- Motivate managers & employees
- Create better managers (not better reviewers)
- Improve TEAM performance
- Contribute to organizational excellence