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The idiocy of performance reviews
How to get your performance reviews right, and why you need to do it
One of the best known, and most loathed, of indoor management science games is the performance review. This ritual has become yet another sacred cow in the top heavy world of academic management. As usual, it has exactly nothing to do with real management of anyone or anything, and it can prove it.
The performance review is conducted once a year or every six months. The manager and the employee sit down and discuss the employee’s work. Then the manager writes a review saying the employee is a slacker, does lousy work, and is unreliable. This review is then solemnly forwarded to senior management, and the manager makes it clear that they’ve told this person to improve their performance repeatedly.
These idiots apparently don’t realize that they’ve just forwarded full documentation of their own inability to manage staff, and their own departments. If this person was such a problem, why did it take 12 months or six to mention it? The employee has been costing money, and this manager, apparently oblivious to that fact, went on with business as usual.
Telling someone to improve their performance and doing nothing about it is the hallmark of a truly incompetent manager. The other side of this tarnished coin is that the manager’s friends invariably get great performance reviews. The department is obviously unproductive from its own figures, but everyone is getting stellar reviews.
Then there’s the “Torture by performance review” effect, so popular with under achievers, talentless hack managers. An arduous session of examination of a staff member who may not have even seen the manager more than once a week is conducted. The supervisor has no problems with the employee’s work, but the manager, once a year, does.
This methodology is particularly popular with the killjoy de-motivational managers who infest middle management. They can reduce productivity simply by setting foot in the workplace, and they do.
If there’s an actual problem affecting business performance with a staff member, is this the way to handle it?
How could it be?
Some of these negative performance reviews are virtual indictments, nearly accusations of sabotage, and yet there’s been absolutely nothing mentioned?
In some cases, the old hack phrase “Attitude” is mentioned as a negative performance. Bearing in mind that this actually means “You need to do more work on your hypocrisy and sycophancy”, what in the name of tired accountants this has to do with anything is debatable.
One thing’s for sure. It has nothing to do with business, which is what the manager’s being paid to do.
If you’re a senior manager trying to get an accurate performance picture of your responsibilities, there’s only one way to do it:
Get an independent performance reviewer. That person must be:
- Someone who doesn’t have a stake in the performance review outcomes
- Someone who does have clear instructions to assess performance from the perspective of the best interests of the business.
- Someone able to check actual performance measures.
- It must be backed up by a senior manager able to take corrective action against managers or staff who are clearly under-performing.
The performance review process, to be effective, must be accurate. The process in its present form is far short of cost-effective, and far too open to abuse.