Jobs and the Future of Work

Do performance reviews matter?

Richard A. Moran
President, Menlo College
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December means more than end of year financial planning and holiday parties. In many organizations the end of the calendar year means it’s time for performance reviews.

To some managers, a review is a cursory way to check one more thing off the list of things to do.

To some who are on the receiving end of the review, it is an exercise in being patient until the numbers are involved. As in, what is the rating and how does that impact my salary?

To most, conducting or receiving a performance review is akin to getting a root canal or waiting in line at the DMV. That’s too bad for all concerned. A performance review can be a time to take stock of one’s career and to consider whether or not you are working in the right place.

For now, let’s forget about the process of how organizations conduct reviews or how individual managers treat them. After dealing with hundreds of organizations I have not found a single review process that is popular or perceived to be effective. Regardless, to the organization, the review does matter. It is the “permanent record” that helps or haunts you.

More importantly, the performance review matters big time to you. Here’s how:

Exceeds Expectations: Getting a great performance review should be everyone’s goal. In most organizations it is a real accomplishment and difficult to achieve. A high rating should be the recognition you deserve for working your butt off.

But the saw cuts many ways on always getting a 4 or 5 (out of 5, with 5 being good) and raises a host of questions. Does everyone always get good reviews? Are there any financial or promotion opportunities derived from getting good reviews? Is a good review an automatic? Is it a true reflection of what I do am I being challenged? Should I go to a place where I will be more challenged?

Meets Expectations: A “Meets” designation means you are in the pack with lots of others. It means too that you should be asking yourself if you are working hard enough. It could mean too that your crazy work hours and big contributions are gong unnoticed. Or, it could mean that the organizational culture is such that no one pays any attention to reviews so everyone gets a 3. A steady diet of 3’s usually means that nothing really good or really bad will probably happen to you – and that could be a good thing.

Needs Improvement: OK, now we are in trouble and really need to do a self-assessment. Low ratings could mean that you are in the wrong career or are so dissatisfied with your job that you don’t care. It could also mean that your boss is a butthead and will never give you your due. Rather than just try harder, a 1 or a 2 on a review might mean more of a heart-to-heart with yourself to see if you need to change jobs, change careers or pay attention.

Do performance reviews matter? The answer is a resounding YES to both the organization and to you. And we should embrace reviews (love might be a strong word) because a review should matter more to you than the organization. The review should be the annual career check up and could be a reaffirmation or a wake up call. Rather than treating a review as a necessary evil that happens once a year; look at it as a reminder that life is short and we should do work that is meaningful and that we enjoy.

So for now, forget how painful the process can be and make the annual performance review process relevant for you.

Have you had a performance review that changed your career?

Published in collaboration with LinkedIn

Author: Richard A. Moran, Ph.D., currently serves as the President of Menlo College in Atherton, California. 

Image: An unemployed man attends a simulated job interview, part of a “Fit for a job” coaching course in Brussels, REUTERS.

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Jobs and the Future of WorkFinancial and Monetary Systems
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