Managing Performance Management That Won’t Manage Performance

by | Jun 18, 2010 | Blog, Performance Management

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Our Beating Bad Bosses Blog Series was our most highly read and popular blog posts to date, so to stay true to that tune, here is some more of that bad bosses beef.

Performance Management is Worthless?!

I recently had a client that stated that he hated filling out employee performance reviews, and that he thought they were absolutely worthless. While I can commiserate that reviews can be a tedious process, my question to him was, “Then how do you know whether each employee is performing the right job, in the best way, at the highest performance level?” His response, “Gut feeling.”

OK, maybe that’s true, and we can all probably agree that we just “know” whether an employee is cutting it or not. However, from a management risk standpoint, I would never suggest defending yourself before a jury in a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit with your “gut” as your only witness, and if you’re going to recommend someone for a big promotion, you had better have some data to back up your recommendation.

The real issue here is that managers hate to do performance reviews.

There are a number of reasons for this, and many are the same reasons why managers keep poor employees.  Why do we hate to write and give reviews? Well…

1. Negative Feedback is Sometimes Necessary – Sometimes a performance management manager must give negative feedback. No one really likes to tell someone to their face that they are doing less than a wonderful job. Even managers who talk a big talk about being tough and demanding become meek and compromising when it comes time to put things in writing.

2. The Fallacy of Recency – The manager has a short memory and can only remember how the employee performed over the last three months – certainly not the full year! The manager knows the review may not be totally accurate because they don’t have the documentation to substantiate what has occurred since the last review.

3. Lack of Objectivity – It’s never really objective. The manager failed to put quantitative goals in the last review, so there’s nothing to measure. Plus, we tend to compare employees to one another rather than to a standard of performance.

4. Lack of Metrics – The performance management metric has not been prioritized. So, what were they supposed to do again?

5. Lack of Standards – The standards of the job requirements are not clear. What are competencies anyway?

6. Narrow Vision – There is the perception that performance reviews only protect the company. Many managers view reviews as merely protocol that must be done because the handbook says they are going to be, rather than as an effective management and development tool.

7. Laziness – Holding people accountable is just too much effort. Management is an interactive process – at least it should be. It’s easier to give a pat on the back and say “keep up the good work” in spite of deficiencies than it is to develop, and maintain, an improvement plan.

However, managers need to understand that employee reviews are useless unless they are accurate and unless they are treated as interactive tools.  Employees need to be challenged and developed – what was acceptable performance one year may no longer be acceptable the next, as management keeps raising the bar to excel to higher levels of performance, and reward.

So, if the truth of the matter is that most managers already think performance reviews are too difficult, and the truth is also that most managers are only giving them a cursory and obligatory response as it is, how do we get them to actually provide reviews with richer and more effective detail?

More on this in the next blog posting in a few days.  Until then, if you’re concerned with the performance of your employees, our Performance Management Services or Employee Coaching Services may be of use to you.  You may also want to check out our Online Training Center for some very cost-effective training material you can use for your staff.

Keep an eye out for the conclusion!

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