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Performance Reviews: Keep Them or Stop Them?


Nobody Likes Doing Them But They Have Been Around For Decades.

When I got into the business world and had my first performance review, it was an absolute disaster. I ended up leaving the company because of it and swore there had to be a better way to do these meetings.

Over the past couple years, a significant number of companies have done away with their formal, end-of-year, face-to-face performance review between bosses and employees. These companies feel that they are too cumbersome, people do not do them well, and they are very stressful for both parties. They also feel like the formal one-on-one should be replaced with on-going, frequent feedback from a boss to the employees. Some companies have even included peers in the feedback giving process through texting and smartphone applications specifically designed to give feedback to people.

From my perspective, to completely cut out the end-of-year sit-down between boss and employee is missing an opportunity for both parties to put a capstone on the performance year and do some solid planning for the upcoming year. Yes, face-to-face meetings in this time of instant texts and emails may seem a bit antiquated, but the reason I say that is based in human behavior. If you are considering doing away with performance reviews, modifying them or sticking with the status quo, the following are some good things to keep in mind when dealing with employees and their behavior regarding performance reviews.

On-going, frequent feedback is essential. As I said, some companies are looking to replace the year-end review with instant feedback that employees can work with right away. I think that is fantastic, but the problem is replacing one for the other. Whether you have year-end reviews or not, constant feedback is what humans need at work.

Logistics come into play here, as a lot of businesses have remote employees and the boss may not see them for weeks at a time. In those cases, electronics is a great tool. Be careful though, words on a screen can be misunderstood and the impact will not be anywhere near what face-to-face feedback can provide. As human beings, especially when we are new on the job, we need a great deal of feedback from our boss to make sure we are on course. Even superstars make mistakes and without that instant feedback, just like anyone else, they will continue down an errant path.

Year-end reviews nurture trust and inspiration. The foundation of exceptional management and leadership is trust between boss and employee. Trust is not built, maintained or reinforced by text messages or emails. Without regular face-to-face discussions, the trust between people will deteriorate over time. It certainly is much easier and faster to continually send texts and emails, but high levels of performance and motivation come from high levels of trust and inspiration. Neither one of those can be transmitted electronically.

Do not forget body language. Communication between people happens primarily through body language and vocal tone. The actual words someone uses has little overall impact because we all have many different meanings we attach to the same words. Without in-person discussions, as managers, we do not get an accurate gauge of what our employees feel about their statements. Doing year-end reviews allows the boss to see the body language, hear the voice, and get a much better overall sense of the employee’s motivation and attitude.

We want to please our boss. As humans, it is natural for us to want to please our boss and to know that our boss is happy with our work. As employees, we want to hear those things in person and see the look on our boss’s face when they are delivering feedback. In that way, we get the entire message, not just some words on a screen. No matter what your employees may say, they want your attention in person.

Employees want to participate in planning. In a corporate world, there will always be goals, objectives and edicts that come from above us. That comes with the territory. Given that, there should be some room for leaders to allow some honest give and take when it comes to setting goals for the next year. To get high levels of performance and motivation, ask your employees what they think they can do versus telling them what they have to do. This is most powerful in person.

Yes, face-to-face reviews are stressful and tough to do well. With some training, practice and a positive outlook on human behavior, they can become easier and set both you and your employees up for success.


Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..