Most people who’ve been on the receiving end of a performance review are probably not big fans, even those getting great ones. I think we hate them so much because it reminds us of being in school and getting report cards.

OK, we’re grownups now and it’s time to kill performance reviews — not change them, not do new funky things with them, just kill them. Right?

Noooo, we have to keep reinventing the stupid things.

There’s a story in the Wall Street Journal today on how some companies are now throwing out yearly reviews for more frequent ones. One company is actually doing these every week.

With many younger workers used to instant feedback—from text messages to Facebook and Twitter updates—annual reviews seem too few and far between. So companies are adopting quarterly, weekly or even daily feedback sessions.

I’m all for feedback, but it seems counter productive to be reassessing what employees do over and over again. They were hired to do a job. Are they doing it? Great. If not, then tell them and move on. Why the formalities?

Samuel Culbert, a UCLA professor and management guru, is an anti performance review advocate, and he’s even more extreme than me. He thinks no one other than God should give such reviews.

“If it were God giving me a review that would be fair. But anyone short of God, I don’t think so,” he told me.

Culbert is on a mission to eradicate reviews and his book, “Get Rid of the Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on What Really Matter,” is part of the grand plan.

“They are not accurate, not objective, and the metrics applied to people have no meaning,” he maintained. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of his disdain for these things. “They are the worst vestige of modern management.”

According to his research most companies follow this rating formula no matter how their workers rate:

* 70 percent of people are rated average in a review.
* 20 percent are rated excellent.
* and 10 percent need improvement or need to be replaced.

Reviews, he said, force managers to find something wrong with the bulk of the workforce in order to fit pre-designated budgets. So even if you’re doing your work well your boss may have to rate you average because she or he doesn’t have the money to give you a 3 percent raise.

Culbert also questions whether anyone has the expertise to rate another individual; and often times a manager’s personal feelings about a worker can come into play.

Oh yeah, I’ll be writing about workplace favoritism in my MSNBC column next Monday, so I know he’s onto something.

Managers and workers have to talk face-to-face on a regular basis and resolve issues as they come up. “Being able to have real dialogue can create good relationships in the workplace,” he explained. “Let’s talk about the issues in light of getting the job done, modifying the behavior so the company gets what it needs from us.”

Culbert sees these reviews as a power play for HR departments. “They become the keepers of all the naughtiness that goes on because they have access to all the performance reviews and they are able to voice their opinions in situations where they shouldn’t be, such as who deserves a promotions and who needs what kind of training.” And the big one, who will get more money. “HR makes something that is a sham into a routine and something that has to be done.”

I guess we’ve got to get HR folks on the kill-the-performance-review bandwagon if this mission is going to succeed. You could buy Culbert’s book and anonymously drop it in interoffice mail to HR.

For those of you who probably won’t do this, and have resigned yourselves to the fact that performance evaluations will be around until the end of your working life, please, please, please don’t take them personally.


“It’s all bologna,” stressed Culbert.

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