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Annual Job Review Is 'Total Baloney,' Expert Says

Performance reviews tend to be "total baloney," says UCLA business professor Samuel Culbert.
Performance reviews tend to be "total baloney," says UCLA business professor Samuel Culbert.

Employee performance reviews should be eliminated, according to UCLA business professor Samuel Culbert. "First, they're dishonest and fraudulent. And second, they're just plain bad management," he says

The problem with the practice, Culbert tells NPR's Renee Montagne, is that periodic reviews create circumstances that help neither the employee nor the company to improve. As Culbert and his co-author, Larry Rout, write in their book, Get Rid of the Performance Review! annual reviews do not promote candid discussions about problems in the workplace -- and their potential solutions.

Instead, Culbert says, when workers undergo a review, "They're going to talk about all their successes -- it becomes total baloney."

And management participates in the charade, as well, he says: "The boss already has heard [from] his boss what they want to pay the guy, or the woman. So they come up with a review that's all backwards."

The process can frustrate employees, who may have a lot at stake -- from a raise or promotion to the general arc of their career. And at the least, they want their contributions and talents to be recognized. Rather than using performance reviews, Culbert suggests that management "just tell the employee what he or she needs to do to become more effective."

Culbert's book sprang from an article he wrote for The Wall Street Journal in 2008, which sparked a large response from readers.

Asked if performance reviews might be tweaked instead of eliminated outright -- for instance, a manager might use statistics to measure an employee's effectiveness -- Culbert says that one-dimensional measurements can bring a new set of problems.

"Once you set up the metrics, that's the only focus for the employee," Culbert says. "The problem with performance reviews is that the metric that counts most for the employee is the boss's opinion. So the employee starts doing what he or she thinks is going to score in the boss's mind, and not even talk about what he or she believes is necessary for the company to get the results that really matter."

For anyone who would like to gauge where they stand on the annual review issue, Culbert and Rout have posted a test on their site, with the slightly biased title of How Much Do You Hate Performance Reviews?

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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