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Putting the job review out of its misery

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

Ever since his article in The Wall Street Journal two years ago drew an outsize response, Samuel Culbert has been calling job performance reviews “baloney.”

The UCLA business professor doesn’t stop there.

“First,” he says, “they’re dishonest and fraudulent. And second, they’re just plain bad management.”

Culbert explains that performance reviews don’t work because they set employers and employees at cross-purposes. The manager has productivity and a budget at stake; the employee’s stake is recognition, pay and a career.

With all good intentions, employees hope to toot their horn and make their case for a raise. They think they’ve done a wonderful job and want credit.

With all good intentions, employers have already made up their minds about a worker’s performance, written a review and maybe secured a raise. They intend to do exactly what it says: review the employee’s performance.

Left out, says the author of Get Rid of the Performance Review!, is the single most valuable thing a leader needs: honest feedback.

“You’re not going to hear what people really think,” he says. “You’re not going to hear them talk about what’s wrong and going wrong. They’re not going to talk about results they have doubts about. They’re going to talk about all their successes. It becomes total baloney.”

His critics say Culbert is wrong because performance reviews may be the only feedback employees get, and may include valuable metrics about their productivity.

“Some jobs, you can score the production,” Culbert replies. “But that’s not all somebody does. You could have a salesperson who sells a lot of product, and in the process, gives the company a bad reputation.”

He thinks the metric that counts most for employees is the boss’s opinion, so they’ll do whatever it takes to score.

— Adapted from “Annual Job Review is ‘Total Baloney,’ Expert Says,” NPR staff, interview by Renee Montagne, National Public Radio, www.npr.org.

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