It is time to kill the annual performance review, for decades a feature of corporate life around the globe, dreaded both by those who do the reviewing and those who are reviewed.
It is a corporate sham and one of the most insidious, most damaging and yet most prevalent of corporate activities. It is a pretentious, bogus practice that produces nothing that could be called a corporate plus. It is universally despised yet few people do anything to kill it.
So says Samuel A. Culbert, a consultant and professor of management at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in a just-published book entitled, Get Rid of the Performance Review! The book grew from a 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal which, Culbert says, prompted a thousand letters to the editor and a flood of online comments, mostly in favour of his argument.
It is not new, but presented in particularly blunt language. A decade ago, a book by Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins entitled Abolishing Performance Appraisals made similar arguments, based on a study of 26 companies where morale, effectiveness and profitability had improved after they abolished appraisals.
Doubts about the process emerged as far back as 1957, with an article in the Harvard Business Review by Douglas McGregor, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who suggested replacing the conventional boss-subordinate meeting with an approach allowing the employee to set personal short-term goals and evaluating himself.