3 Reasons Performance Reviews Are A Total Waste Of Time (And What Should Replace Them)

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Taylor Tobin1.84k

It’s hard to think of a workplace convention that inspires more eye-rolling and general distaste than the performance review process. In fact, Inc. reports that a full 95% of workers feel dissatisfied with the way that their companies handle performance evaluations. 

But while the traditional “sit in an office while your boss tells you all the things you’re doing wrong”-structure holds little value for workers or companies, you can still maintain an open dialogue with your employees, keeping them informed on their successes and the areas where they could use some improvement. Here, we’re presenting three reasons to reconsider the classic review process, as well as a couple of ways to effectively engage in performance-based conversations with coworkers instead.

Why performance reviews don’t work:

1. Employees don’t take anything of value away from this process, and it doesn’t improve performance overall.

In addition to the overall lack of employee satisfaction with performance reviews, the Inc. article cites other damning stats; 90% of workers don’t trust the accuracy of the information revealed and documented during the review period, and, according to a report from Adobe, formal reviews have no measurable effect on job performance as a whole. Essentially, performance reviews require managers and their reports to invest considerable (company-paid) time on a process that reaps few clear benefits for the business.

2. Performance reviews are structured around an outdated model with little relevance to today’s working world.

Performance reviews tend to happen in a fairly regimented way, with supervisors evaluating their employees and presenting them with a written document detailing what they’re doing right (and, arguably more to the point, what they’re doing wrong). However, this model only reinforces a hierarchical system that devalues clear communication and compromises trust between managers and employees. As Forbes columnist Liz Ryan puts it: “Performance reviews cement the bad, old idea that when someone is your supervisor, they sit on a higher plane than you do. That's ridiculous. A supervisor in today's Knowledge Economy is an orchestral conductor. The conductor keeps the orchestra together but doesn't presume to tell the musicians how to play their instruments.”

3. The rating system often used in performance reviews includes gender bias.

Often, the ratings procedures used during performance reviews contain (frequently unintentional) biases against employees who aren’t cisgender men. In fact, Business Review stated that women are 1.4 times more likely to receive critical feedback during their performance reviews than their male counterparts. 

Instead of a traditional performance review, try this:

1. Check in with employees after the completion of major projects to review and reward successes and to problem-solve difficulties.

Because reviews tend to happen either annually or biannually, they lack the immediacy that could actually make a measurable difference in performance. Therefore, it’s a better idea for managers to give their employees feedback on their work in real time; after a big project culminates, schedule check-ins with your reports to discuss the process, to offer praises and critiques, and to formulate a plan for future assignments. 

2. Allow employees to offer feedback about their bosses’ performances.

The “one-way street” format generally favored by performance reviews offers a myopic view on a company’s progress and raises plenty of questions about a review’s objective validity. Some businesses prefer to use “360 reviews”, in which a group of coworkers at different seniority levels comes together to evaluate their fellow employees. However, because this format requires the input of numerous individuals, it can quickly become chaotic. As a compromise, other companies give junior employees the opportunity to review their managers anonymously, which provides a more egalitarian perspective.


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