Going To Bat For Performance Reviews

They’re helpful! Esp to those of us who like feedback & raises

If it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the dentist, it’s been an even longer time since I’ve had a performance review. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but, for the most part, I remember them fondly. They function as an opportunity to check in with your bosses and see if they are actually happy with your work. They allow you to discuss concerns — about your own performance as well as your workplace environment. And, when they go well, they are an excellent springboard to asking for a raise, whether during or after.

Slate, not surprisingly, argues that they should be killed.

Sixty-five percent of employees say that the current performance appraisal process interferes with their productivity. Sixty-five percent say the information isn’t relevant to their work. These are but a few of the trends leading the way to the annual performance appraisal’s demise.

The writer, who originally made this argument for Inc, makes some fair points. For example, “the performance discussion needs to empower employees to improve month over month, not year over year.” Employees do better when their managers “hold a predictable cadence of weekly and quarterly conversations with” them, rather than giving them one high-stakes formal evaluation. Sure! We all do better when we get timely, regular feedback.

But I don’t really understand what he means by this paragraph, which gets a little … fuzzy.

Part of the transition away from the appraisal process is a mindset shift. First, it’s not a process. It’s a conversation. The intention is to help employees become a better version of who they are. It’s not to complete documentation required by HR.

It’s not a process, it’s a conversation? Shouldn’t it be both?

Also, sometimes the HR documentation part, which can seem rote or annoying, is crucial. If you find yourself unfairly terminated and you do want to try to challenge that in court, part of what you can use to demonstrate that you’ve been discriminated against is as many positive performance reviews as your lawyers can collect. Historically they have been helpful to complainants: see here and here.

I have had confusing or irritating experiences with performance reviews. One standard form at a job asked my supervisor to rate my punctuality, and he noted me as “fine.” Fine? I was there every single morning before he was! Then I realized, How could he know when I arrived if I was there every morning before he was? He was probably just guessing. I started arriving later, with no ill effects.

Generally, though, I’ve found them useful, even kind of nice. But then, I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a Lisa.

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