My favorite comment in all of these articles is from the always wise Bob Sutton, who says in the NYT article, “In the typical case, it’s done so badly it’s better not to do it at all.”
And perhaps that’s the problem. Almost no one in the entire chain of events required to perform performance reviews believes in them enough to either a) do them well b) fight for change in the process c) propose an alternative.
When I worked at Microsoft, reviews were a formality with good managers. We’d agree on the minimum we needed to do early on, and that’s all their was. If I wasn’t doing well, I knew about it early, and we’d talk about it at least once a month. The actual review meeting never held surprises. With bad managers, reviews became a legal battleground, where positions were established, and claims were made, in an ever-escalating and desperate attempt to make up for something fundamentally broken in how the relationship was working.
In my years since, and my many travels to many corporations, I’ve discovered how ridiculously similiar the review process is in most major corporations. There is almost no innovation here among the Fortune 500. Yet every HR department will proudly proclaim how unique and special what they do is. That somehow their magic “evaluation criteria” are superior and less porous than any of their competitors. When someone takes great pride in the construction of a form, beware for your soul.
The surprise to most employees who have never been a manager is how little relevance what they write in the review has on their rewards or bonuses. Often the decision for promotions, or raises, is made weeks or months before the evaluations are due. Which might be fine, if this were transparent: but it rarely is.
Have you seen a performance review process in action that worked well? Or can imagine one of your own invention? I’d love to hear about it. Links welcome.