Performance reviews cause too much stress

24 May 2010 Sandeep Mehta

The New York Times has an interesting article on the impact of performance reviews on supervisors and employees alike.

Annual reviews not only create a high level of stress for workers, he argues, but end up making everybody — bosses and subordinates — less effective at their jobs. He says reviews are so subjective — so dependent on the worker’s relationship with the boss — as to be meaningless. He says he has heard from countless workers who say their work life was ruined by an unfair review.

Some people are recommending doing away with review altogether.

“I say, ‘Throw it out,’ because it becomes a very biased, error-prone and abuse-prone system,” said Dr. Namie, the author of “The Bully at Work” (Sourcebooks, 2000). “It should be replaced by daily ongoing contact with managers who know the work and who can become coaches.”

I see the limitations with current system of performance reviews – especially in larger R&D organizations.  Each team member has at least two bosses – a project manager and a functional manager.  The functional manager can compare individual’s performance to their peers, while the project manager can actually understand how well they have performed on a team.  The two managers communicate infrequently at best and many times speak in completely different jargons.  This results in the functional supervisor making somewhat misinformed decisions that she or he is not well prepared to explain.

“Who is the biggest source of stress on the job? It’s your immediate supervisor,” he said. “The pile of evidence coming out shows that if you want to be an effective organization or an effective boss, you’ve got to strike a balance between humanity and performance.”

I think a new system, process and tools are needed to provide continuous feedback in this complex world.

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