This is a guest post by Financial Uproar, a mid 20s finance blogger who writes about investments and general money topics. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to his RSS feed or following him on Twitter.
Let me begin this post with a story about two consecutive yearly performance reviews, one given to me by a supervisor who liked me, and the other given to me by a supervisor who felt I was after his job.
The first performance review was great. I met or exceeded expectations in all eight categories. In the comments section at the bottom of the review, my boss stated what a pleasure I was to work with, complimenting my work ethic and disposition. To this day, I have yet to get a performance review as glowing as that one. I used the review as my main ammunition when I asked for a raise a short time later, getting every penny I asked for.
Fast forward to the following year. I had a different boss, but I was in the same position. Out of eight categories, I only met expectations in three, meaning I needed improvement in five. It became apparent very early on in the review that my manager was nitpicking, finding fairly specific things I had done wrong recently and basing my whole yearly performance on them.
Outraged, I set up a meeting with his boss. To paraphrase, I was told the organization still held me in a very positive light – my immediate boss just didn’t like me, but my job wasn’t in jeopardy. He implied that if I just stuck around long enough, my supervisor would either get promoted or move on and I’d get his job. I left within six months, largely because dissatisfaction with my supervisor made me feel like I was in a dead-end job.
Bosses have biases
I cringe every time a performance review is referred to as “objective.” The fact is, bosses have subordinates that they like, tolerate, or despise. If a boss likes the worker, the performance review is likely to be better than the employee deserves. It’s the exact opposite with an employee the boss doesn’t like. So rather than an objective review of the employee’s performance, we get a report filled with the reviewer’s biases, which is almost never accurate.
Even if you get several people contributing to the review, the biases will still be there. Supervisors talk amongst themselves, and human nature dictates that we value the opinions of our peers. If nearly everyone in an organization dislikes someone for personal reasons, that will inevitably change the opinion of the one person who likes them.
Both parties are looking for different things
As an employee, the purpose of the performance evaluation is simple. You want a good review, partially to feel good about yourself and your performance, but mostly so you can leverage it into a pay raise.
The supervisor has often been given pressure by management to not be too positive on reviews. Management knows if they have a bunch of staff that get great reviews then they’ll have a bunch of staff pressuring them for nice pay raises. Obviously management doesn’t want this, so reviews just about always follow a “employee A did this well BUT…” format.
It’s thus common for managers to nitpick on some little wrongdoing during review time, just so they can find something negative to put in the review. How is that in anybody’s best interest?
They really don’t care if you improve
In every workplace I’ve been part of, the review never offers any concrete ways to improve an employee’s performance. If the review identifies a weakness in a certain area, the reviewer should also outline a step-by-step process to improve the employee’s performance. At the end of the day, performance reviews are presented, discussed, and then filed away until next year, when the reviewer cracks them out to see what they said last year.
If management was serious about employees really improving themselves, they’d revisit reviews on a regular basis throughout the year, working with the employee to improve their deficiencies. A review could be a great opportunity to show an employee that the employer is serious about their personal growth in the organization. This opportunity is just about always squandered by management.
The boss has all the power
Every organization likes to tout teamwork. We’re all a team, they say. We all work together. This may sometimes be the case, but it definitely isn’t the case at review time. Rather, the boss has all the power. The employee can object to the review until they’re blue in the face, but they’re not going to change it.
In fact, objecting to the review just gives the reviewer further ammunition next year, they can add “doesn’t take criticism well” to their list of beefs. It’s either the supervisor’s way or the highway, which is a contradiction of the whole teamwork and working together mantras.
Can they go away please?
I’m not sure of the ideal solution for giving feedback to employees, but it’s obvious (at least to me) that the traditional performance review isn’t it.
If I ran an organization, I’d give employees a handful of goals to work on at the beginning of the year, working with them throughout the year to accomplish those goals. At the end of the year, I’d go over the goals with the employee. If there was success, then a raise is in order. The greater the success rate, the greater raise I’d give. And if someone didn’t accomplish much, then perhaps they need to be transferred to a different department or even let go.
That’s just one solution. Certain organizations are starting to come up with some innovative ones of their own. What’s your take? As an employee (or boss) what would you like to see in a performance review? How can the process be improved?