CXO

Do performance reviews make you uncomfortable?


If you're like my company, you're in the process of doing performance evaluations. I've been on both sides of the fence on these--both as a recipient and as a manager going them for staffers. Each role has its down side. For managers, performance appraisals can take a lot of time, depending on the number of staffers. And it's pretty uncomfortable to deliver the news to an employee that he or she is not performing up to par. Not to mention that such news has to be backed up with loads of documentation in order to avoid legal ramifications.

It would seem that the staffer has the easy part, but not so. I've always been a little uncomfortable with the process of being told how I "measure up." I don't mind constructive criticism, but it can be a slippery slope when your manager doesn't have a really good grasp on what it is you do or don't do on a daily basis. And I don't mind reading my evaluation as much as I dislike having to sit there face to face. There's only so much nodding and smiling you can do when your strong points and accomplishments are listed. Also, reading about any areas that need improvement allows me to digest it and respond in a rational manner rather than just sitting there listening to them. The best thing is being able to look at yoru review a day or so before the actual meeting with your manager.

What are your feelings about written versus "live" performance appraisals?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

23 comments
vl1969
vl1969

if you have something to say, say it to me at any time. I worked at the company where you had to fill out your own review form with good/bad and ugly for your self and for your immediate manager. define your goals and improvements for the future. then give it to your manager for him to rate you and him self (yes on the same form) then have a review with a higher manager (all 3 of you) it would have been OK if I worked in environment where there have been many projects through out the year and many changes in what I did. but I was in the team that provided and on going support for an in-house apps. and services. not much changes there. so after the first 2 years I had to sit and do some creative writing to come up with goals and other stuff to write on this stupid form. what the use of this? some times all this S@#$ is done just for the check mark on the management agenda and nothing more. USELESS!!! -

Choppit
Choppit

A few years back I was managing a team of 18, part of which entailed carrying out performance reviews. Company policy at the time was that reviews should be carried out every two months which for me meant that I was spending 9 days a month preparing for, carrying out and writing up reviews. My team was a mixed bag, some of the staff were once peers, some were once my seniors and others I had inherited or recruited myself. Informing someone that the're performing well was easy, the opposite was more difficult for me but reviews were always carried out objectively and to the best of my ability. With the benefit of hindsight I'd say that a team of 18 is too large to manage in this manner and reviewing every two months was too often.

mike
mike

The comfort level a manager and direct repots have during reviews really depends on how much communication has occurred throughout the review period. As a manager, I immediately let my direct reports know when they are doing anything great, substandard, or unacceptable. If this occurs throughout the year, there is no surprise at the end because the person has known all along how they were doing. Problems arise when a manager doesn?t communicate and correct issues with those who report to them. It isn?t easy to do and some managers will avoid conflict until review time comes out and they don?t have any choice, or worse yet, gives acceptable level ratings to problem employees to avoid conflict altogether. Direct reports should know throughout the year how they are doing and any issues taken care of, both for the company?s sake AND the employee?s! I respected my managers who took that approach with me for a few reasons. First of all, it may point out issues that I may not have otherwise known. Secondly, I grew professionally from each conversation. I ended up with higher ratings through the years because of immediately correcting anything that was brought to my attention rather than it festering in my manager?s mind.

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

...well defined and fair. By well defined I mean a criteria that different people can agree about (different people would give the same rating using the criteria). When I say fair, what I mean is that I must have a good amount of control over the factors that will determine the rating that I get as part of the evaluation process. JS

gary.atamian
gary.atamian

I've been on both sides: in the military I received NCOERs, then as I moved up in rank, I had to administer them, as well. Up until Jan 2005, I worked for almost a decade for a world-wide electronics manufacturing firm based out of San Jose CA, although I myself was located in Salem NH. My immediate Director for many years gave absolutely outstanding performance reviews. He genuinely cared about career growth and performance. He was one of the best examples of leadership that I will always try to emulate. Although he didn't understand my operation initially, he went out of his way to *try* to understand it and eventually I could talk to him about technical issues without any kind of glazed look in his eye. Then... the company acquired/merged with another electronics manufacturing firm down in Huntsville AL and everything went to crap. I didn't receive my yearly review until 18 months after it was due. My supervisor never understood what I did and never took the time to try and figure it out, no matter how many times I attempted to explain it to him. Granted, he had a lot on his plate, but being 3,000 miles away just seemed to imbue a "I-don't-really-care-all-that-much" attitude. I thank God every day I'm no longer with that company or even in that industry.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Well too much praise, makes me wince. More seriously, when an issue is a total surprise. That tells me the guy responsible for judging my competence is an idiot. I should have known that already, very irritating.

GNX
GNX

For the past 11 years I walk in the owner's office, sit down, do the review which consists of, "You're doing a great job, everyone has positive feedback (the users that she talks to), you get stuff done on a timely basis and this is what your raise is. About 1 minute has elapsed. Then we talk about the Red Sox or Patriots. If I wasn't doing a good job I would hear about it long before my review.

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

As Mark stated, I have been on both sides of the line. I never liked giving reviews as no matter how hard I tried to bring the "constructive criticism" across, someone was would not be happy with their review and would complain to my boss. I always figured it was me but now know you can't please all of the people all of the time and some people can't take criticism no matter how much sugar you put on it. I used to have a micro-managing manager and reviews were quite painful. Every little detail was scrutinized and I felt demeaned by this person. I finally left the company because I hated to go to work every day. I now work with someone who is officially my boss but works with me as an equal. I have never been happier, never learned so much or never been this excited to come to work. How long will this last? It's coming up on five years and no complaints so far!

markvongarnier
markvongarnier

I've been on both sides of the fence too and had good and badly done reviews. I dreaded the ones where the reviewer didn't have a clue and only did the review (being forced by company policy). I think everyone that has to do a review needs to be thoroughly educated and supervised appropriatly because corporations can easily loose "the even playing field". I believe that a review can be better done by "outsiders" that can give an objective and unbiased opinion.

stress junkie
stress junkie

When a manager is involved with the employees on a daily basis and knows each person well, along with their daily job performance, then the manager can really be an asset to the business and to the employees. This seems to be self evident but it is rarely implemented. I've met many managers that didn't know the strengths and weaknesses of the people who report to the manager. Many managers don't know what any employee under their supervision does on a daily basis or in a detailed way. It seems that many managers don't want to know. I've met many managers who hid in their office when they bothered to come into work at all. When this kind of manager grudgingly evaluates employee performance only because the business requires it the manager and the employee know that the manager has no idea whether the evaluation is even close to being realistic. Employee strengths are overlooked. I even had one manager say that he had to put lower marks for performance because "they" would be more accepting of his evaluation. That kind of thing is the reason that I started my own business. I got sick to death of having incompetent managers pronouncing judgment on my performance when they were a liability to the business.

evilned1
evilned1

I worked with Gary, although in a different department. I was there almost as long as he was, and also received many good reviews. However after the last merger my direct supervisor was let go and my group was without any direct manager for over 18 months. When they finally found someone, he quit in disgust after 5 months. I recently heard the last senior person has left and only a contractor remains, and he is very junior. I'm well out of that place. Now I'm working at a place that actually considers it's people an asset rather then a liability.

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

"How do you think you perform on project X". Strangely, if the project went bad I don't have any problem criticizing my work if I am involved with whatever went wrong. On the other hand if the project was a big success I never feel comfortable giving myself to much credit. That is why for me the ideal evaluation criteria has to have "mathematical like" rigor. JS

sfessey
sfessey

'If I wasn't doing a good job I would hear about it long before my review.' That is exactly what should happen but I have seen too many fail to address issues before the review stage and that is where a lot of this discomfort comes from. Performance is a day to day requirement and it should never be left to the formal review meeting to speak about it. Of course the other problem with performance reviews is that they are so often associated with pay reviews and that can take a lot of the objectivity away from it. I remember doing reviews a long time ago following a particularly challenging project where my team all exceeded expectations. I reviewed them accordingly only to have the senior manager advise me to re grade as we could not give more than 2 people grade A reports!! Not a performance issue more a 'we do not have the budget to award those pay increases'. My current method is to divorce reviews from pay and focus instead on actual outcomes - works much better

skywalker_al
skywalker_al

Your boss has figured it out.....We are all a team, even though I am a Manager. I love review time and so do my staff. We are very open and upfront. Mid-year review, we talk about issues that need a little attention and see how their goals are progressing. Year end reviews should be a great occasion for you to reward your employees, not point out their faults. Many people have no idea what 'review' time is really supposed to be about. skywalker

ktphd
ktphd

Most review systems I've seen are unnecessary artificialities. It works better when only results are focused on (including communication results), and a quick check is done monthy. It only takes 5 minutes. There should be NO surprises. A surprise is a symptom of management failure. them's my thoughts, after setting up numerous review plans for folks.

Web-Guy
Web-Guy

Yes, I know what you are saying about those forced reviews. I've had the same supervisor for over 5 years now, and the review basically goes like this now: "ditto"

tuvals
tuvals

In order for an individual to have a fair performance review a performance plan should be documented. This should enumerate each area the review will focus on (job responsibilities, deadlines to be met, communications skills) all are some examples of areas to focus on. If one doesn't know what is expected then a review is rather moot. Having worked in management I can tell you there are only so many chits to be handed out to ACE performers. I was even told once when I wanted to promote and give a raise to an employee to drop another ones performance or my own. It is all about budgets in most instances. Also, if you go into a review and are body slammed about something that happened months ago and were not made aware of it at that time I say look for another job. If management just sits in an ivory tower with a disregard for communicating with their employees that is a bad sign. If they do not show an interest then oftentimes the employees don't show an interest and have no loyalty to their employer. Thus, many will take a job, get trained and go to another company for more pay and better treatment. I have had managers who couldn't, in my opinion, gather shopping carts in a mall parking lot. Also, at a review speak up and challenge anything you do not agree with even if you have to go over your bosses head. If, in your heart you feel you are right even after escalating then it is time to start job hunting. Why, because you have run into a clique which you may never be able to conquer or change. Look out for your best interests in these situations. I have been in the work force for 38 years and have seen the good, bad and ugly in terms of management styles and worker treatment.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

One place implemented a new review procedure tied to a bonus. I was told I couldn't be given top marks in anything because that would mean I'd have no way to improve! I can see why management want to tie performance review to pay, I don't have a problem with that as long as I perceive the process to be fair. If I don't, the entire exercise is a waste of time and money. They should either sack me, or address it.

zbatia
zbatia

Very smart words! It is so obvious.

mdhealy
mdhealy

A colleague who has been in the Army says while there are things he does not miss about the Army, one thing he misses very much about the Army is the clearly defined expectations: he always knew exactly what he had to do for his next promotion. Also, when he did blow it, his CO would give him a single dressing down and then it was OVER. In the corporate world, he says, it seems like many things never get said out loud but also never are forgotten.

Inkling
Inkling

The only complaint I ever had with my pros/cons as a LCpl and then Cpl were: As a Cpl I was the only one in the shop. Therefore I did not interact with my superiors or "my" Marines in a social setting. I was always shortchanged on the "Moral Fitness" portion of it simply due to the fact that they didn't know me well personally. I was a 4.8-5.0 Marine my entire career, but that one thing always frustrated me and it carries into my civilian life as well. When I always asked (most recently on my last performance review in the civilian world) what they used to judge/grade me on "moral fitness", I usually get the deer in the headlights look. As a hard worker, I always get great reviews, but this one area seems to be more of an opportunity for them to give me a lower score simply due to the fact that there is no good way to judge/grade someone's "moral fitness". Because my reviews are always so good, I rarely make a big deal of it, but has anyone else experienced this and been frustrated by it?

Too Old For IT
Too Old For IT

When I do good, no one remembers ... When I do bad, no one forgets. This is the mantra of corporate life. I really should have stayed in the Corps for 20, gotten out and pursued writing. That monthly check would have made it just that much easier. And I would not have worried about IT except for calling Dell for the tri-ennial laptop upgrade.

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