Why we all hate performance reviews (kehityskeskustelu)

Julkaistu 12.09.2017.

Performance reviews are today a common feature of organisational life. For some this meeting with the boss might take place once every two years, for some once a quarter. It might involve filling out a form for 15 minutes, or it might involve a lengthy, deep discussion lasting over 2 hours. However, one thing they seem to have in common is that we hate them.

Performance reviews can be very important since they should provide employees with clarity about their roles, objectives and contributions to the organisation. This helps to give employees a sense of direction, identity and purpose. They should also provide constructive feedback on how well the employee him-/herself is doing (not just the team or wider organisation) and where there might be room for improvement.

However, performance reviews in many organisations today also provide input into several decisions that can have a significant impact on employees: promotion decisions, salary or bonus levels, or inclusion in a talent pool or training programme. It is no wonder then that research shows that employees are extremely sensitive about how well their performance reviews are carried out. In short, organisations have created a loaded gun, or as one commentator put it, “an expensive and complex way of making people unhappy.”

So why do we tend to hate them? Decades of research into the performance review have produced a long list of reasons, but the main ones relate to the lack of a connection between our objectives and what we actually do, the evaluation being too biased and not based on accurate information, and the size of the rewards for performance being too small to be motivating. Underlying a lot of the reasons is a general lack of perceived fairness and that no one is taking it very seriously.

My own research suggests that differences in opinion are as great, if not even greater, between individuals in the same organisation than across organisations. In other words, people are different from one another, and this can produce very different views on even the same performance review system/process.

One of the reasons for this is that people have different supervisors. From the viewpoint of employees, managers vary significantly in how well they carry out performance reviews: we can all probably remember good examples and awful examples of ones we have been through ourselves. Individuals also perform different kinds of tasks which can make objective setting and performance evaluation easier for some but more difficult for others. As individuals, we also hold quite different views about what can be considered as ‘fair’.

One of the things this all means, is that instead of changing the performance review form or whole system – which would typically be the job of HR, which employees also tend to hate – the improvements should be in the implementation and communication of the performance review, which should be the joint responsibility of HR, supervisors and top management.


Päivitetty 12.09.2017 - Verkkotoimitus