The performance review

August 24, 2015

I was interviewed by Charlie Taylor from the Irish Times about the dreaded performance review.  Following the news that Accenture is dropping the process there’s a flurry of interest in whether these processes are of any value or not.  Lucy Kellaway writes about it here.  My own view about performance reviews/appraisals is that they of course can be useful but more often than not it’s a box ticking exercise about which many employees are rightly cynical.  The problems with the process as I see them are as follows:

  1. Performance reviews assume that the individual is separate from the system in which they work.  They take no account of the wider context and how it influences and informs how an individual performs at work.
  2. They really only ever go one way (top down) and even when there are other systems deployed to capture feedback it’s arguable as to whether anyone can give ‘honest’ feedback about a superior without worrying about the implications.  Power and politics are always at play.
  3. The performance review is associated with ‘negative feedback’.  It’s a contrived situation in which the ’emotional’ elements of performance are reviewed and commented upon.  In other words it boxes off the ‘personal’ from the ‘professional’

They can be useful but only if there is follow up and decisions taken are acted upon. I am with Lucy Kellaway when she says that ultimately giving and receiving feedback should be an integral aspect of organisational life and not something that is corralled into a specific and anxiety inducing ‘performance’.


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