In the past, performance reviews were typically kept between the employee and supervisor. Here's why this practice has changed.
Performance reviews are, without question, vital for a healthy workplace. More than 90% of employees report that they want to hear criticisms in real-time, according to research from 15Five, and performance reviews are where managers can provide that feedback. Reviews serve a slew of other purposes too, and are ultimately meant to help the enterprise as a whole.
"We need [performance reviews] as a device for the company to figure out who's making the biggest difference in terms of performance of the company," said Gartner group vice president Brian Kropp. "The second reason is that employees need to know what they should be doing or working on to further the impact they're actually having on the organization."
Performance reviews also help employees know where they stand—what they are struggling with, what they are doing well, and what they should be focusing on to make an even larger impact in their work experience, Kropp said.
SEE: Accomplishment tracker (Tech Pro Research)
One topic that typically comes up during annual performance reviews is money. By assessing the performance of each employee, supervisors are able to see who is most eligible for a pay raise or title upgrade. Because of monetary and job position discussions, performance reviews have traditionally been kept private between between employee and employer—not to be discussed with peers.
"Fifteen years ago the idea of talking about your compensation, your performance review, with anyone other than maybe your spouse was almost heresy," said Kropp. This sentiment, however, is changing.
"The world is incredibly different now," Kropp added. "You look at Glassdoor, Salary.com, all these other places out there where you get increasingly accurate snapshots of what compensation and rewards look like, that are free for anybody to go and look at."
These sites also open the door for feedback and comments about the organization as a whole and the people who work there, giving prospective employees—and even outsiders—insight into the company's culture. This transparency isn't only surfacing in the workplace, but is actually a part of a broader social change, Kropp explained.
"People who have graduated from college recently are used to much greater transparency about things. At almost every college in the US today, you could read student evaluations about your professor before you decide to take their class," said Kropp. "Then you've got people that are coming into the workplace wondering why they can't have that same transparency that they've experienced up until now."
Because of both the websites and the overall societal shift, managers should assume performance reviews are now likely being discussed outside the walls of a private office, Kropp said.
SEE: Tips for getting the most from your performance reviews (free TechRepublic PDF)
This transparency can be a good thing in the workplace, said Brian Westfall, HR analyst for Capterra. "If a manager is discriminating or being unfair, it can be hard to prove without workers coming together and saying, 'Yes, that happened to me too.' In cases like this, discussing performance reviews with others can be beneficial," Westfall said.
However, whether you disclose what happens in your performance review to others is up to you, and employees must consider the implications of sharing such information, Westfall said.
"First, as a manager or leader of a business, you have to assume that people will be sharing information about compensation, rewards, bonus payouts, percentages, how they did—all those sorts of things," Kropp said. "Either via social media, via Glassdoor, or, especially if you have a younger workforce, when they go out and get drinks after work, they're going to talk about it."
So whether the performance review was positive or negative, managers should assume the information will be shared—but so should employees. Employees should also expect that their managers will find out what they say, Kropp added.
For example, "if you got a 3% raise, and your boss knows you got a 3% raise, you're probably completely comfortable going back to your boss and saying, 'Hey, you gave me a 3% raise,'" Kropp said. "But, if your belief is that I got a 3% raise and my boss totally screwed me over, I should have gotten a 10% raise, and if you're telling all your friends that, or your coworkers that, odds are your boss is going to find out you were saying that. Would you be willing to say that same thing to your boss?"
At the end of the day, sharing what happens in a performance review isn't inherently bad. Just be careful with what you say, how you say it, and who you say it to.
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