The performance review is the most over prescribed management controlled substance on the market. Hugely addictive among management users, wholly unsatisfying in every respect and just plainly unproductive. This unregulated controlled substance wreaks havoc on employee psyche and generally impedes the natural growth of the business. I used the word “controlled” because every employer uses performance reviews to psychologically manipulate employees to instill fear and anxiety. In a majority of the cases I have handled, the review is a means to the end- to manage an employee out of the business. Simply, this is the worst method of communication ever developed by man. The use of performance reviews must end and must be replaced with a better approach I will discuss in a moment.
In order to clear the air of any confusion, performance reviews exist in order to develop a defensible legal position against soon to be departing employees who turn around and sue their employers. The review is not intended nor designed to improve your performance. After working so many years now, you know when you are doing well and what performance items you need to work on. A review is a nonsensical subjective management commentary that appears in writing prior to the termination, nothing more and nothing less. You should always file written rebuttal comments in your personnel file or emails to your manager in order to correct the factual record. Performance reviews are like nasty emails you should never send, because they always come back to bite you in the ass.
My approach is simple and it is driven by an extremely active role taken by the employee/executive to communicate their expectations about what they want and determine how those expectations coincide with the company’s expectations: Communication = Listening + Acknowledgement + Action.
In order to be an effective person (not just at work) you need to embrace active listening. Avoid the tendency to interrupt the person you are communicating with and clear “filters” you normally apply. Take time to listen to the other person, let them exhaust their train of thought or idea. Silent listening allows the other person to begin to feel empowered, open up to you, become vulnerable, and appear less guarded. You form a more meaningful connection without the use of any words! Be mindful of all your bodily contortions as you sit silently listening, as the other person is consciously and subconsciously reading your body cues and readjusting their communication with you. When you believe the other person has paused, then acknowledge (summarize) what they just said in order to reaffirm their position. Just don’t use the word “but…” as your first or tenth word when you summarize. You need to truly engage in the other person’s thoughts, comments and ideas as if they were your own. Step into their shoes and wear them. Only then can you see both sides of the discussion, argument or whatever situation you are in.
Once you have heard the other side, you can take Action. What I mean by taking action is to find solutions, choices, alternatives, examples etc. that permit both parties to form a bridge to a common understanding regarding each other’s expectations regarding any situation you are confronting. You should absolutely refrain from any judgmental comments as this will surely turn the other listener away. However, you should push the envelope and take chances that move the parties to a new position. This is where your thinking out of the box can really make changes that will create new opportunities with coworkers and management.
Now after reading this effective yet simple solution, do you really need a heavily subjective performance review?