The annual review reveals more about the manager’s performance than the employee’s performance (part 1)
I have written in the past about “the annual toxic performance review.” The basic point is that this is the only time many managers provide insights – the view – on how the employee is performing, is during the re-view. The view in to the employee’s performance is often during the re-view. Kind of ironic.
Another ironic situation is that the employee’s annual review usually reveals more about the manager’s performance than the employee’s performance. Yes, the review covers all sorts of aspects of the employee’s performance, usually both from the employee’s perspective and the manager’s perspective. That’s the text.
But the subtext of any employee performance review is how well that manager managed the employee during the review period. And looking at a manager’s reviews from this perspective will quickly reveal lots about how that manager manages.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how the review reveals information about the manager:
1. The debate
Many times you will see a debate emerge about the employee’s performance via the employee’s self evaluation and the manager’s comments. If there is disagreement, this reveals that the manager has not discussed the employee’s performance openly with the employee during the year, and has instead waited until the performance review to share his thoughts. The employee, perhaps anticipating this debate, will submit multiple pieces of evidence (metrics, stories, customer quotes) to pre-empt the anticipated contrarian position of the manager. It’s interesting to see if the manager’s comments actually address these pieces of evidence, or ignore them and make generalizations about the employee’s performance.
2. Performance Feedback on the review
Many times you will see a manager finally take that step and provide feedback to an employee via the review. “Jim needs to be more accountable.” “Alex needs to manage meetings better.” “Alyssa has quality issues that have hurt the team.” “Patrick needs to connect with his peers more.” (Note: As these are generalizations, they are poor examples of performance feedback, but nonetheless examples of performance feedback likely to be found on the review.) If the manager gives this feedback and does not reference a conversation to this effect in the review (i.e., “We discussed how Patrick can engage with his peers”), then the manager has simply waited until after the review period to give performance feedback. As discussed many times in this blog, this is the most un-artful way to manage and to provide performance feedback, as it is neither specific nor immediate.
Yet so many managers do it today, it has become almost a norm. Should you see this on your organizations’ annual performance reviews, expect there to be contempt for the managers in your org.
3.The “keep it short” instruction and subsequent debate
Many annual review forms have an employee self-evaluation section, and then a manager comment section. Managers often give instructions to their employees to “keep it short.” That is – don’t write much about your performance. This reveals much about the manager – a) The manager does not want to hear about good work being done by the employee, and wants to deny that opportunity of expression b) The manager is trying to limit discussion of and knowledge of what the employee accomplished c) Apparently doesn’t want to read more than a page of text and; d) Wants to give negative feedback during the review (see point 2 above), but fears that the employee may submit evidence that this negative feedback is incorrect, so the best mitigation strategy by the manager is to cut off discussion. Often there will be more debate – in the review form itself, prior to the discussion, and during the discussion – about the amount of text an employee can enter in the review form than there is a discussion about the employees performance. Crazy.
What are examples you have of managers revealing more about their performance on the annual review? Send them to me!
In my next article, I’ll provide more examples of how the annual review reveals more about the manager than the employee.