Are Performance Evaluations a Waste of Time?

“I can’t wait to complete my annual performance evaluation form and have that meeting with my manager. It’s incredibly motivating to rehash events that happened up to twelve months ago and discuss my shortcomings, mistakes, and accomplishments,” said no employee ever.

“I am so much looking forward to trying to remember every detail and achievement for each of my many direct reports and fill out a form for human resources. It’s especially rewarding since I am not very good with conflict or giving timely or regular feedback, so there will be some surprises for a few of my employees that they will not be happy with,” said no manager ever.

Let’s face it…Employees hate the performance review process as much as managers do. Every year, HR has to practically beg for the meetings to happen and forms to be returned. Managers just don’t have the time or desire to go through this tedious forced process. Even worse, many companies require the employees themselves to complete the form with feedback first, thereby making the process even less valuable. Many managers will add a few sentences onto the employee’s comments and call it complete.

In my career, I have only worked with a handful of truly skilled people managers. Some are adequate and others downright dangerous to morale and retention. There are different management styles when it comes to giving feedback: Some give no feedback. Some only focus on positive feedback to avoid any emotional situations. Some only criticize and give negative feedback. However, some give balanced feedback, both positive and negative and act as a supportive coach. Those are the best managers.

Employees are not concerned with a score or a ranking on a form. If review time is tied to merit increases and/or bonuses, all employees want to know is what percentage they are receiving and how their pay check will be affected.

Performance Evaluations can be particularly demotivating when there are surprises. If an employee has had no feedback for the entire year, but then is ranked low on the review form, this is not fair to them and they will likely become disengaged.

Likewise, if a person who has nailed every goal and has gone above and beyond is only rated “average,” they may also become disengaged. Some managers are “easier” graders than others. If an employee changed managers during the year, they may have had an outstanding review last year, performed the same, but now are rated lower just because the new manager has different expectations.

Oftentimes, the goals for the start of the performance year aren’t even determined until about 3-6 months into the year. The department goals usually trickle down from the executive and director level. If they can’t get their strategy or priorities for the year figured out, it affects the whole organization. Is it really realistic to expect people to meet goals when they don’t even know what their goals are or what they are being rated on until several months into the process?

As you can see, a formal performance evaluation process causes more problems than it seeks to solve. The solution is simple. Managers need to “manage” as their job titles state by meeting regularly with their employees, providing both good and constructive feedback on a regular basis, and handling any performance issues as they arise. Set goals, ensure understanding by all parties, and hold employees accountable.

If the above actions occur, we can happily throw away performance evaluations for good.