Performance reviews don’t work

I have yet to meet anyone, a manager or a staff member who has really enjoyed their performance review. Most leaders find these time consuming to complete and anxiety provoking to lead. Most staff find them nerve wracking. They wait to hear the worst. Commitments to no-surprises can rarely be kept. Even if you have had a great year, being rated achieved hardly cuts the mustard.

I recall as a young teacher preparing reports. I had 70 to do. I wrote 12 comments and proceeding to allocate these to the students. After 20 I stopped. I thought this is an opportunity for me to communicate to each student. What do I really want to say? How might I encourage each one? What is the most relevant thing I might say that would motivate each person? I bought each student to mind and wrote late into the night. I don’t know the precise result. What I do know is that many students loved my classes, and I became aware of how much I appreciated each student.

The real killer with performance reviews is that they are on record. They are filed. Who can see them, and who might access them is unclear. Who these records help remains unclear to me.

Senior leaders often consult on the overall rating and individual staff development. Where there is trust and goodwill amongst leaders and staff, the care and interest in staff’s development is thoughtful and considered.

Where trust and goodwill are not present, the result is nerve-wracking for leaders and for staff. Not knowing how others really perceive you is disconcerting. Leaders discussing your capacities without you present, is unnerving.That this be done thoughtfully is essential.

Nothing replaces an open, forthright, caring manager-staff relationship. Rather than performance management, conversations to develop staff do work. When you talk with staff regularly on how they are going and the results they are producing, new conversations emerge. How they are going with what they are doing? What do you see might assist them? Working in the territory of helping staff rather than monitoring performance creates vibrant relationships.

How would your staff know you have their best interests at heart? Do your staff know that you see their talents? Do your staff know you are interested in them doing well? How well have your communicated your appreciation? How well have you communicated clearly the capacities you want your staff to develop? What conversations might you have with your staff to let them know you care for them and their development? What conversation would you want to have with your manager on how you are going?