Blowing a Hole in Traditional Performance Reviews
Culbert strikes again! No, that’s not a typo. I am not referring to Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central alter ego of Bill O’Reilly. However, Samuel Culbert may be just as intriguing and controversial. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, he follows up his 2010 book release by challenging a common assumption about union workers.
The fight in Wisconsin over bargaining rights for public employees highlights a long-held belief that union agreements don’t allow for honest discussion about worker performance. In other words, union workers are guaranteed a job so there’s no reason to evaluate their performance. Without unions, wouldn’t promotions, pay and recognition be doled out more fairly?
Absolutely not, says Culbert. His ground-breaking book Get Rid of the Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on What Really Matters makes the case that annual reviews are flawed and actually lower employee performance, rather than raise it. Culbert says annual performance reviews measure how comfortable a boss is with an employee. They don’t offer constructive feedback to help employees improve their contribution to an organization.
Culbert’s bottom line: Whether you are answering to shareholders or taxpayers, “investors” get less bang for the buck when organizations use a traditional annual performance review system. It squelches suggestions and criticism from employees, because they don’t want their comments to become bones of contention during their reviews. But Culbert reminds us that those are just the types of suggestions and outspoken behaviors that help organizations perform well and make money.
Do you believe there is value in annual performance reviews? Is it realistic to eliminate annual reviews and expect managers to provide monthly or even weekly feedback?