By Molly Kelley
A recent article in the New York Times (“Time to Review Workplace Reviews?” by Tara Parker-Pope, May 17, 2010) raises interesting questions about the value of evaluations in the workplace, and their impact on employees.
Citing recent surveys showing an increase in workplace dissatisfaction and a new book by Samuel Culbert called “Get Rid of the Performance Review!,” the article debates whether performance reviews are adding unnecessary stress to the work environment.
Culbert, a psychologist, argues that reviews damage the important relationship between managers and their reports by being entirely too subjective and incapable of portraying an accurate picture of true performance.
Those in favor of reviews argue the review itself is a valuable exercise, crucial to providing employees with critical performance feedback and engaging their manager in taking a good hard look at what they themselves can do to better support their employee’s success. Reviews simultaneously hold both parties accountable for the employee’s development and progress from year to year.
A danger Culbert and others point to is in those situations in which a manager or supervisor with a chip on their shoulder uses the review process to attack an employee’s performance unfairly. There are several ways to ensure this cannot happen within your organization, and strengthen the review process in so doing.
While most reviews are written by an employee’s direct supervisor, having a 360º review incorporating feedback from the employee’s peers (both above and below them in the reporting structure) can work to alleviate any bias. Another solution entails requiring Human Resources to review all completed evaluations prior to the review meeting. This ensures documentation of any performance problems is on file with HR in advance of a meeting and allows HR to pre-screen the review for appropriate language and equity.
A strong review process, implemented by well-intentioned supervisors and managers, ensures this valuable element of employee development receives high marks.