Re-Thinking the Performance Review

In her October 2011 Harvard Business Review article The Cure for Horrible Bosses, Rosabeth Moss Kanter identifies many of the all-too-familiar pains associated with poor imagemanagers, from artificial and unnecessary deadlines to control issues. At one point or another, many of us have experienced or know someone who has had a lousy performance review, where details of average to low performance, which never came up during weekly one-on-ones, suddenly come to center stage at the review, blindsiding the individual. Many of these management moves are staged to justify a curve, as part of a pre-determined and artificial performance ranking that can be both unfair and humiliating.

Kanter provides some great advice to help neutralize a horrible boss:

  1. Focus on the organization;s mission, and those tasks which roll up to the broader organizational commitments.
  2. Help others around you succeed, which can raise visibility to the broader organization’s leadership team, but also build strong 360 degree feedback. I love her quote, “The best cure for horrible bosses is wonderful colleagues.”
  3. Have a positive attitude. Ultimately, you are in control of how you are perceived to peers and managers.

My add to this list is to be honest about your ability to succeed with your manager, and while you should do everything you can to learn their style and do what is needed to meet and exceed expectations, recognize that there may come a time when you should fire them (change jobs) if you feel you cannot succeed long-term.

For another great read, take a look at Marcus Buckingham’s post The Fatal Flaw with 360 Surveys on the HBR blog site.

The traditional performance review model is broken, because few managers look beyond the spreadsheets and KPIs that may promote short-term department health over long-term healthy organizational development. The good managers listen to their team and understand the issues that they are facing. The annual review, simply put, should not contain any surprises, but be a summary of every weekly conversation you’ve had, with a focus on overall commitment delivery, plus a very real discussion of salary, bonus, and next years goals.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.