“This is pointless!”…“This process is ridiculous!”…“All these factors seem completely arbitrary!” …“These questions do not reflect what is really going on!” … “ Everyone knows what works and what doesn’t!” No these are not reflections on the inner-workings of the U.S. Congress; rather they are common office fodder when performance review time comes around.
Perhaps it is the case that performance reviews are pointless. Just a waste of time and effort. On the surface it certainly seems that way. They come and go, everyone gets worked up, then the review gets archived in a human resources folder somewhere until they are accessed in the event of a potential promotion, raise, bonus, or termination.
Wait, hold the phone! That’s right performance reviews actually do impact your pocketbook, position and employment status. Perhaps not so pointless after all. Recognizing that the performance review process can be distasteful and stressful for all involved but is also necessary and useful, I would like to suggest a couple of ways to help smooth over the rough edges.
First, incorporating a self-evaluation portion of a review can be invaluable. As a manager you may be surprised at how candid employees will be and how tough on themselves they often are. In many cases this will help ease any criticisms you have as they will likely be aired by the employees themselves. As a reviewee, when you are given the opportunity to self-evaluate, take a positive view of the process. Exploit the opportunity to promote the hard work that you do in your organization. This is also a time to provide your managers with insight into the aspects of your position that you feel are overlooked or that you assume responsibility for even if they are not in your job description.
Second, maintain clear and direct communication about the review process. Ensure that managers are clearly explaining the process and importance of the reviews such as the impact they can have on promotions and raises. Also be sure to provide ample opportunity for employees to ask questions about the review process. Sometimes the attitude of “this is just a necessary evil” can become prevalent. Acknowledging the importance, culturally and legally, of performance reviews will help ease people’s minds and provide motivation to create accurate reports.
As an aside, remember to not let the perfect get in the way of good. No evaluation process is perfect. It is easy to get caught up in the politics of the reviews and wondering how known underperformers continue to receive passing marks. Rest assured long before the actual review, in most organizations everyone knows who is performing and who is not. At some point the correct decisions will be made and a consistent review process will ensure personnel matters can be handled appropriately.
Also remember that performance reviews are only a portion of an employee assessment. Day to day performance is always of great importance. This does not mean that the critique, positive and negative, is not important. We all like to hear positive feedback about our efforts. The tough feedback actually should not be viewed as negative, but rather as insight into ways to learn and grow.
It is up to each member of the performance review process, the reviewers and reviewees, to maintain a positive perspective. Remember that from the CEO on down, everyone is in the same boat. Performance review time comes and we can choose to view it as a burden or an opportunity. Perhaps someday, someone will develop kinder, softer review methods. Until then, I wish everyone five-star reviews and bonuses galore!