Why Employee Reviews Get a Bad Rap

Author: Ron Hiller l  Published Date 1/2013

Blog Category: Performance Management

Let’s be honest, reviews have chalked up a lot of negative commentary in the social media, blogs, and books. But before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s take a closer look. Could it be that reviews are not the problem at all, but rather the review practice?
(More Starts here) If we start with the basic assumption that most employees want to do a good job and to be recognized for their contributions then the argument that reviews are a waste of time flies out the window. Reviews are for most employees their primary source of feedback. They are the annual report card as to how well the employee’s performance fits with the organization’s objectives.  And their value doesn’t stop there. Reviews have a role beyond mere feedback; they have career, compensation, training and development, and legal implications.
The idea of nixing reviews is tantamount to setting employees adrift in a sea of vagueness and uncertainty. None of us would welcome the insecurity associated with that kind of environment and you certainly wouldn’t buy stock in a company that managed its employees in such a hap hazard way. If we believe that reviews are critical then why do they get such a bad rap from employees, managers and the organization’s leadership? "Form-Follows-Function", is a principle usually associated with architecture that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.
But what does this have to do with reviews?

Employees tend to give reviews a thumbs-down. Coincidentally most organizations rely on outdated static paper or electronic forms as the integral part of the review practice. These forms were never designed to manage the multi-faceted complexities and dynamics of day to day employee performance.  As a result employees complain that reviews are, stressful, inaccurate, irrelevant, and a waste of time. Employees complain of being blindsided by feedback during the review and they feel passive rather than participatory in the end to end process, from setting goals to offering input on how to improve performance. When is the last time that your organization updated its reviews? Are employees able to share their performance notes in real time with their manager? Do managers share their performance notes in real time with their employees?

Time constrained managers complain they lack the time to do a thorough review for each of their employees. Manager’s burn the midnight oil rushing through their stack of forms trying to meet a deadline.  Which brings us full circle as to why reviews get a bad rap, it’s not the concept of reviews, but rather a lack of the appropriate tools in the review practice. You wouldn’t try to balance your check book once a year, nor should you try to compress an employee’s annual performance into a few minutes of recollection which results in a mish mash of meaningless generalities and surprises which only adds stress for the appraisee as well as the appraisor.

Organizational leadership frequently complains that they see little to no return for all the time and effort spent on this perfunctory process because like tax returns the information is filed away making the data useless for identifying performance trends. Does your current review process lend itself to identify training needs, recognition, pay for performance opportunities, and performance trends?


I know of no organization that can compete successfully without loyal and committed employees; and in fairness to employees, they deserve accurate and timely reviews.   Paper forms followed by electronic forms were adapted to be used in the review process in the 20th century because they were the most efficient options available at the time. Today there is a plethora of online automated systems, rendering paper, electronic forms, and email attachments obsolete. Automating the review process if not done already should be an organization's top priority. It is a gift an organization gives to itself, its employees, and managers.

READ Performance Management Blog "Blindsiding an Employee With Negative Feedback in a Review Is Unforgivable"

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