Performance Reviews: Go Ahead And Alienate Your Employees

When have you ever experienced a performance review where you didn’t focus on the one negative thing that was referenced in the review?

For managers, we don’t think about the inherently negative aspects of performance reviews because we think we’re supposed to be giving our employees feedback about their performance. Problem is, by virtue of the fact that reviewing anyone is by its very nature negative, there is no way to create a review environment that doesn’t go south for everyone involved.

Every employee experiences anxiety when faced with a performance review and they will always be disappointed with the results. Think about it… from the moment it’s announced to employees that reviews are going to be performed, everyone moves into a place of anxiety because it triggers feelings of insecurity about whether they did a good enough job, whether they will be getting a pay increase, whether they will be getting a bonus, whether they will be demoted, whether they will be fired.

The next level of anxiety comes when you do the actual performance review with the employee and you don’t cover their entire performance because you haven’t actually been paying attention or you’ve been too busy to notice what they’ve been doing or you’re only doing the review because your own managers are making you do it. The feedback you give the employee will always be inadequate, won’t be based on fact, won’t be based on anything measurable, will contain way too much subjective information in it and the employee will feel that you don’t even know them, don’t recognize their contribution, have no clue what they’re doing and that you don’t actually care about them and what do you get in return? Your employees think you’re an asshole!

So now, where are we? We have employees who are alienated, they think their managers don’t care about them, the managers have no clue why their employees start behaving differently following the performance review (that is, if they actually even notice their employees’ behavior) and overall performance in the weeks and months following the review suffer. If anyone were to do a study of employee performance following performance reviews, it’s probably a safe bet that they’d see a direct relationship between the two and unfortunately, the inherent negative nature of performance reviews sets up the employees and the organization for a decline in performance and, by extension, profitability.

So here is the question for all of us as managers… WHY are we even doing performance reviews? If we were actually paying close attention to what’s going on with our employees and providing them with feedback along the way, why would we need to do this annual ritual flogging of our employees just because we have an HR policy that says we do performance reviews OR we feel we must because it’s part of what we need for a disciplinary process. That right there makes clear that performance reviews are inherently negative because we use them primarily for the purpose of improving employee performance of punishing employees if they aren’t performing.

Did it ever occur to us that if we were vigilant about paying attention to what’s going on with our employees, we wouldn’t have performance “issues” that would need to be “reviewed”, that we wouldn’t have declining productivity and engagement in our organizations, that we wouldn’t have employees “acting out” in the workplace and we’d have a happier and more productive workforce overall?

Whomever it was that decided performance reviews were a good idea clearly never managed people in a way that was about making sure they were acknowledged, recognized, given feedback in the moment it was warranted and encouraged to be part of the bigger picture. A performance review is nothing more than an uninformed commentary on the part of management that is a box to be checked off each year so they can say they’ve done their managerial duty. The net result is the alienation of the workforce who has no recourse but to react and retaliate against the organization.

Why on earth, as a manager and/or organization, would you ever set yourself up to have this happen and yet it happens in organizations every day and is something being recommended by consultants all the time as a response to disgruntled employees who feel alienated. The recommendation is to do performance reviews because employees need to know how they’re doing… yes, of course they need to know how they’re doing but you don’t do it in a way that is inherently negative, you do it by paying attention to what’s going on for them on a daily basis because that is the only way you can get out in front of something that might ultimately come back to haunt you.

#management #leadership #employeerelations #humanresources #organizationaldevelopment #hr #ceo

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