Is performance review killing your employees?
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Nothing can easily break an employee’s concentration while having another ordinary day at the office than by realizing that a performance review is up. You start hearing your colleagues go on and on about it and you secretly complain about it too, that is, if you haven’t already joined in on the bantering.

But why does a supposedly positive thing get so much hate? Here are some reasons why it’s garnered a bad reputation among employees.

“It’s just a sheet of paper.”

Performance reviews are tools to point out shortcomings committed by an employee or even to praise him for a “job well-done”. They are standard protocol in almost all business organizations. These usually come in the form of standardized review sheets where administrators give ratings ranging from 1-5 on different areas of work, depending on how well an employee has performed over a certain period. Sometimes it’s only a piece of paper and nothing more. No points further elaborated.

“I don’t like that it’s very confrontational.”

A review on paper is only one end of the rope, since most companies also have a sit-down with the boss. And this is where it becomes stressful for both parties. According to an article in the New York magazine, part of the reason why a sit-down isn’t very welcome is because this “model ignores the social context of the workplace.” Some managers don’t necessarily want to roll out negative feedbacks on the table just as much as an employee doesn’t want to receive them, much more if it’s in a formal set-up. Due to its confrontational manner, the whole process now fails to inspire innovation because the supervisor becomes a judge, rather than a motivator.

“The boss doesn’t like me very much. I don’t expect to get a good review.”

The Atlantic makes a strong case about “rater bias”. According to the article, some managers are likely to rate those employees who share similar traits to them in some ways higher. So those on the receiving end tend to be defensive about this result, believing that they performed better than what the result shows. In return, they tend to veer away from improvement since their self-esteem is threatened.

So does it kill employees?

In a way, yes, it kills their motivation. Summarizing a year’s worth of labor into metrics minutes of sit-down with a superior does not present an accurate assessment of their strengths and weaknesses nor does it highlight their actual performance since the points being considered here are loose and are mostly based from selected memory. Bloomberg argues that “these reviews happen too infrequent that they don’t provide meaningful feedback”, which, again is due to the fact that not the entire performance over that span of time is accounted for. This loses accountability and misses the opportunity to acknowledge outstanding performance as it happened.

If that is the case, what’s the alternative?

Real time feedback is the most ideal. It will allow managers and supervisors to initiate conversations, however informal they may seem, directly following a disappointing or praise-worthy performance. This will also allow employees to be able to change or act upon ‘areas for improvement’ or sustain laudable actions almost immediately. Employees may also be encouraged to submit an evaluation of their performance and their co-workers so the upper management can get insights from them since they can’t monitor everyone all at once.

Another benefit of providing real time feedback rather than waiting for a scheduled Performance Evaluation, is the avoidance of memory loss. Let’s face it: it’s easier to remember the most recent events leading up to the review. Imagine this, if your assessment is scheduled on July and it covers January to June, as the rater looking at the columns you need to fill and grade, chances are you will only remember the performance of your staff 4 to 6 weeks prior. This easily gives a biased review of your employee.

So should we kill Performance Appraisals/Reviews?

In a way, yes. More companies are ditching the traditional performance review in lieu of a better system for gauging the performance of employees without demotivating them. Ultimately, as a business owner or manager, your job is not to hand out praises and criticisms for employees. Rather, it’s your job to guide them in their work to achieve better results for the business.