Previewing the Future of Performance Reviews

28 Nov

Employees will be overjoyed to learn that experts are now criticizing the dreaded performance review. This age-old office practice supposedly promotes increased productivity and performance within the office. However, business analysts claim that it in fact does the opposite. The root of this problem is that performance reviews ultimately create an environment that promotes poor communication.

Communication Breakdown before the Meeting Begins

The problem with performance reviews start before the meeting even begins. This is simply because both parties come to the table with different goals in mind. Bosses want to discuss things like productivity and performance, while employees are eying items like promotion and pay raises. These differing goals lead to a meeting where neither party is looking to achieve the same thing.

Chained by the Checklist

Another hallmark of the performance review is the inevitable employee evaluation. This evaluation often takes the form of a company-mandated checklist. The checklist system fails because it does not take into account that each employee has a unique set of skills that he/she brings to the company. Moreover, these checklists are often used across multiple types of employees, further generalizing the evaluation. This inevitably leads to a system that makes employees feel as if they are being evaluated unfairly.

Disrupting Teamwork

Teamwork is clearly important within the workplace. However, the performance review creates a setting where the boss holds all of the power. This imbalance does not encourage teamwork; rather it leads to employees spinning facts to appear as though they are workers that are more effective. Inevitably, with employees trying to mold facts and bosses striving to maintain a superior position, trust breaks down. In addition, without trust, the idea of teamwork cannot exist.

*Note the evaluation sheet on the table


“The Performance Preview”

The performance preview is a recently proposed model to eliminate many of the problems in performance reviews. This idea, created by Samuel A. Culbert of the Wall Street Journal, focuses on improving communication by bring the goals of both parties together. The model is deceptively simple. Bosses and employees meet informally to discuss the future of the company and what they can do to influence the organization.  By focusing on the future of the company, not on past employee performance, both parties communicate as a team in order to figure out what each can do to improve. Both employees and bosses are empowered by this because at the end of each meeting they reach clear conclusions that both people accept. Finally, in an informal meeting no checklist is necessary because there is no formal path the meeting should take. Each performance preview functions as a unique setting where communication, not evaluation, is the key to success.

by Gavin Boileau


One Response to “Previewing the Future of Performance Reviews”

  1. Stacey L November 29, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    The idea of a “Performance Preview” is interesting but I’m still not convinced it will solve many problems in the performance review. While goal congruence may occur during the performance preview, why wouldn’t managers and employees still maintain their separate goals during the actual review?

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