Everyone Hates Annual Performance Reviews – Stop Doing Them

Everyone Hates Annual Performance Reviews – Stop Doing Them

Manager’s hate writing and delivering annual performance reviews.  Employees hate doing self-appraisals and the dreaded annual review meeting.  Why?  For one, this might be the only formal feedback an employee receives all year.  There’s a lot riding on it.  Raises are often tied to the overall rating which adds to the pressure.  Even for employees that have a good relationship with their manager, the meetings are often awkward and stilted.

Employees that are poor performers dread it because it’s not a positive experience (obviously) and often get defensive which makes it uncomfortable for both the giver and the receiver.  Best performers sit there while the manager heaps praise on them. While it feels good to hear the praise, sitting through the actual review meeting can be embarrassing and uncomfortable.  The only group of employees that might enjoy the meeting are those that are middle of the road performers because it’s the only time the manager has shown them any attention all year.

Most annual reviews are based on goals that are set at the beginning of the year and are not revisited until the end of the year.  So many things can happen in the span of 12 months that this approach is impractical.  What’s the solution?  Quarterly goal reviews.  If a manager is meeting with employees on a quarterly basis the meetings are much less formal and pressure ridden for both sides.  It’s more of a check in and gives the manager the opportunity to adjust goals to fit the business environment, provide feedback and measure progress.  It also gives employees a chance to ask questions or look for some guidance on roadblocks they have encountered.

Giving an employee feedback on how they are progressing towards meeting their goals is important, but equally important is HOW they are accomplishing their tasks.  Is the employee riding roughshod to attain their goals or are they reaching their goals through acceptable business behaviors that should be encouraged?  If meetings are held quarterly, managers can provide feedback to the employee, so they can correct the negative behavior or be encouraged to continue demonstrating those behaviors the manager wants to instill.

One advantage of quarterly reviews is that they can identify problems early on and work with the employee to correct them.  If they fail to correct their behavior and an improvement path is warranted; the manager has current and relevant documentation related to the employee’s behavior, if it should come to a termination decision.  No employee wants to find out they were doing something wrong at the end of the year during an annual performance review.  They were never given the chance to correct a problem in which they were unaware.  For an employee to hear about a problem on an annual review for the first time is unacceptable.

Annual reviews can very time consuming, if the manager is sitting down to a blank piece of paper, especially if they have many direct reports.  Quarterly reviews can be informal.  Just develop a matrix that lists the goals, due dates and a space for comments.  Be sure to leave room for comments on how the goals are being accomplished so the behaviors that have been observed can be discussed.  Have the employee complete the form first so they have some input into the process.  If your company still requires an annual review to justify an overall rating for a salary increase just use this quarterly document for backup.  An annual view with quarterly performance reviews is a much better look into the year and keeps the reviewer from just documenting those things that happened most recently.

Employees feel more engaged in the success of the business and managers feel like they have a team moving towards a common outcome. Turn this dreaded process into something that both meaningful and productive for the manager and their direct reports.

This blog was co-written with Denise Schaumberg, who has 40 plus years in Human Resources Management.


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