View Full Version : Employee Reviews: Helpful or Harmful

06-16-2009, 12:21 PM
Almost every company for which I've worked has had some form of employee review. I've been on both ends as the one being reviewed and the one doing the review. Most of the time the review process has been so rigid and stylized that I didn't find it all that helpful.

What do the rest of you think? Do you think employee reviews are helpful? Have you ever gotten good advice that helped you from an employee review? If you were the one being reviewed, what would you like to learn from the process?

I have to review someone who works for me soon, and I'm thinking about pushing for a different format. Some feedback on what might work would be extremely helpful.

06-16-2009, 12:32 PM
A review by a supervisor or upper management whom you have no respect for, is a joke. I once had a supervisor who was so full of himself that it made the process nauseating. The guy was a kiss ass and a moron.

it's all about respect.

I would like to know that management recognizes my strengths as well as my flaws as well as what it's going to take to get me to the next level.

Hope that helps and good luck,

06-16-2009, 12:38 PM
I never found them helpful, but I think it was more the rigid structure imposed and perhaps the person doing the review more than the idea itself. Feedback is very important, but I don't know that it needs to be formalized. I'd rather not have to wait 6 months or a year to get feedback. When I finish a project just let me know what I did well and what I didn't do well and I'll do better the next time.

06-16-2009, 03:16 PM
I've always thought that a less formal structure works best. I like to give immediate feedback and talk about projects as soon as they're completed. That way everything is still fresh in everyone's mind.

Besides, if we're honest about it, even though most reviews say that you're being evaluated on a whole year, you're really being evaluated on what you've done in the last few weeks. I dont' k now any managers who maintain a review file over the course of a year.

Business Attorney
06-16-2009, 05:28 PM
In a bigger organization, a formalized review process can serve a number of different functions. For one, there are legal reasons why having well-documented reviews can protect an employer (or sometimes cause a problem for the employer if the employer takes an action inconsistent with the written record).

From an employee's standpoint, I have found that many managers are not good at providing ANY feedback and will suffer subpar performance quietly until they can't take it any more. Then, they decide the only solution is to fire the employee. A formalized review structure forces these managers to at least conduct a review. Still, I have found that even with a formal structure, they often sugarcoat the review and downplay the areas that need improvement. That is one reason why many organizations have detailed checklists that a review needs to cover.

06-16-2009, 06:31 PM
Well my last formal review as an employee really sparked the process of coming home for good.

When things I saw as totally positive attributes were marked as negatives, it made me realize I was no longer fit to be an employee anymore. So I started increasing my freelance work. It took 10 months before I'd built up enough business to feel safe about walking away...

The way I saw it, I was on 100% commission so they weren't really my employers, my clients were. They didn't like that attitude much...

06-16-2009, 09:45 PM
a formalized review process can serve a number of different functions

That's true. They are about more than just giving an employee feedback. Ultimately the quality of the feedback depends on who's giving that feedback. For it was never that I minded the formal feedback so much as I didn't find it helpful as feedback. Often a lot of what would be discussed really wouldn't apply to the job and I think they can lead to people performing their jobs to the review as opposed to the job.

A good mix is the annual or semi-annual review filled with a lot of informal feedback in between.

06-17-2009, 01:45 PM
David, you are right, reviews do serve a legal and administrative purpose, and as such have value. I don't think that reviews themselves should be abolished, I just take issue with how reviews are currently conducted at a lot of companies. I don't see how the formalized process contributes a lot to helping an employee understand how to improve or what areas they need to work on. I think a lot of times the review process becomes so fossilzed that it is no long helpful for either the employer or the employee.

I'd like to see the structure of employee reviews change. I'm not sure into what, yet, but I'm thinking about it.

Dan Furman
06-17-2009, 05:27 PM
I found reviews extremely useful. Like Patrysha, they let me know - without any doubt - that I really don't fit in, and am much better taking things into my own hands.

Long live the review :)

06-17-2009, 05:55 PM
Funny. I think they helped me realize the same.

06-18-2009, 12:39 PM
Yeah, that can be one benefit of the employee review. I'm not going to deny that.

06-18-2009, 10:54 PM
Its a setup for failure on both ends. Go with informal reviews for actual feedback- and completely divorce the money part from that with a seperate meeting. I was usually angry that I didn't get a bigger raise, and didn't hear anything else- and now, on the boss side of the table, I see the same thing from employee's. They are looking for A RAISE; not feedback. So go with informal, frequent feedback; and as a small company, give raises when you feel they are deserved, and when the improvement has occured. Or tell them that money is tight, or whatever the truth is- but don't tie it to the "review", or it becomes "the raise" discussion, not feedback.

IMO, of course......

06-19-2009, 12:39 PM
Baseline you make a good point. I think a lot of times the review becomes, for employees anyway, something they have to sit through to get to the raise part. I like your idea, frequent, informal feedback and a raise when it is warranted and possible. That makes a lot more sense. I wish more companies would follow that model.

06-19-2009, 09:32 PM
Keeping them separate from each other raises is a good point. I think they're tied together more for legal reasons than anything else. You want to have something as proof and in writing for why an employee received what they did. Most of the time it's going to be unnecessary, but it's for those one or two times or the possibility of the one lawsuit.

I agree they'd be more effective if the reviews were informal and not tied to the raise. I think as long as there is informal feedback given throughout the year the reviews become less of a big deal. Let them be there for the legal protection, but offer feedback in between as well.

06-21-2009, 10:43 AM
Hmmmmmm.......... I would be curious to know if that is right. My opinion (which, along with $1.51 will get a you cup of coffee..........:D) is that the "review" was a way to justify NOT paying employee's more. It would point out where improvement was needed, and steps to take to become more valuable, and yada yada yada....and BTW, you get a raise that is just about the same as inflation this year.

But I could be a little jaded. I know that I would give my "stars" raises without them even asking for one- and try to string along the merely mediocre with as little as possible. Because I already knew, a la Jack Welch, who was taking space and who was getting things done.

What I thought was HR was needing documentation on the "flaws" of said employee so if they filed for unemployment you had an arguement for denying it- which I never have done, and don't agree with. I wonder what others have found over the years?

06-21-2009, 12:50 PM
I don't know it's meant as a way to justify not paying. I think the formal reviews are more to have documentation in place for those times someone doesn't get the raise they want and decides to make waves about it. I also assume there are some legalities as far as having to offer feedback and documentation.

06-21-2009, 02:11 PM
for me review's always went along w/ raise time...they were the same thing...yearly review/raise

its a chance to say whats good with the employee and have the boss offer suggestions on things to improve on for a better raise next time....i always found the promise of a 'better' raise to be a false promise though...

most employees dislike the boss and his #2 man (who does the reviews)....sometimes #2 is a relative or a friend....sometimes he's the kiss@ss....but thats the way the world works...many of my customers like me because were friends too.....

i dont see any neg's to a review

07-05-2010, 05:29 PM
I spent many years in HR. I will stand by yearly reviews. Most reasons have already been mentioned here. We once had a problematic employee who had health problems, but because there were never any performance problems recorded in her evaluations we were advised not to terminate for fear of suit of wrongful termination. I suggest formal evaluations every year, quarterly progress meetings to keep lines of communication open, and raises on a random bases. Raises do not have to coincide with evaluations. It is a huge mistake to bring the two together, IMO...

07-05-2010, 07:24 PM
Josh did you see advantages in improving performance? The wrongful termination thing is enough or should be to convince employees it's a good idea, but I'm curious if anyone notices an improvement in employee performance after a review. I can only speak for myself, but I never felt more or less productive after a review. Usually I was pretty confident what my review would be before getting one though.

07-05-2010, 10:48 PM
yes, as a matter of fact we did. On one occasion we had an employee who was really good at what she did (she was a receptionist at the time). We gave her a quarterly review to let her know that we appreciated her and to commend her on her work ethic. We encouraged her to continue to progress, and we assured here there was room for advancement in our organization. She was promoted 6 months later to a management position and now she is the clinic manager for a 25 doctor facility.

On other occasions we have seen individuals pick up simply because they knew they were appreciated.

In the occasion with the wrongful termination- the employee wanted to be on disability, and she wanted us to fire her so she could get unemployment benefits. She claimed that she could not handle her job function due to her illness. By request, we asked her to provide a letter from her doctor outlining what she could and could not do. We then met those requirements. The employee quit less than a week later. She knew we were onto her, and she wasn't going to pull the wool over our eyes.

If we had the evaluations in the first place, all of this could have been avoided when her FMLA ran out. Instead, it cost us thousands of dollars to play the waiting game. It was a sober reminder of how vital it is to have record of employee performance.

07-05-2010, 11:13 PM
Interesting story in the second half of your post. One way for the evaluation to protect the company. Is that the main reason they exist? Is it more to protect company than employee. The generally struck me as things companies had to do more than they wanted to do. Granted that's in my limited experience. I probably only worked a small handful of places that offered reviews.

Cool that you found they could be helpful for employees. They weren't for me, but I don't think I would have been representative of most employees. I was usually a pretty good judge of whether or not I was doing a good job so tell me that wasn't going to motivate any more and telling me I wasn't certainly wasn't going to motivate me more. In places where they would outline career paths within the company I thought that was good, but most of that information was usually already available prior to the review.

07-06-2010, 01:25 PM
I've been in places where employee reviews were very helpful and places where they were a joke. The most helpful reviews were in a place where one of the senior managers was a mentor of mine. The review with my immediate boss was never very helpful, but after that one my mentor would sit down with me and I'd learn a ton in that review. I think that a review becomes much more useful when the person who is doing the review genuinely wants you to learn and grow. If it's just a touch base thing to get a raise, it's got no value.

07-06-2010, 06:29 PM
Guess it depends where you work. Most of the reviews I've had were the usual this is how much of a raise you'll get. They would always find some minor thing to correct me on. One place it was my direct manager and she even told me the only reason she mentioned the minor thing is because she wasn't allowed to give anyone a perfect review, though she really had nothing to complain about my performance. When the reviews are like that I think they're silly. Like I said I may not be representative here. I usually have a better idea of how well I'm performing than the people giving me reviews so I was never sure what I was supposed to learn.

07-06-2010, 06:37 PM
Honestly, reviews probably are more of a protection for a company more than anything else, unfortunately. And your both exactly right about the effect of the review. It all depends on the working relationship between management and the employee. A good manager will foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and dignity with the people under them. They get this training from a good HR department. Generally speaking, if the people in the "people" department are doing their jobs correctly, and they care about the employees like they should, they will train management to also care for the workers as individuals.

07-06-2010, 09:02 PM
Kind of what I figured and I guess part of why they seemed meaningless to me in most places. They never felt like anything helpful to me. Just more paperwork I needed to sign so I could go back to my desk and get back to work. :)

Paper Shredder Clay
07-08-2010, 11:49 AM
I think it could be helpful. I recently had to fill one out for a fellow employee. I was thrilled at the opportunity to share my view of the worker. She is a hard worker with good communication and goes the extra mile. It made me feel good to let her department know that she is a good employee. I think people that regularly work with a person should be able to mention that person's strong points and weaknesses.

07-08-2010, 12:17 PM
Out of curiosity why couldn't you simply have said those things to her? Did you need the review process in order to be able to compliment a fellow employee and let her department know she was doing a good job?

07-08-2010, 03:25 PM
It all depends on the working relationship between management and the employee. A good manager will foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and dignity with the people under them.
That's a two way street. I always made a point of becoming friends with my manager. That was easier in my case because as a field sales guy I traveled with him a lot. Reviews were a non event because I already knew if I screwed up on something or my manager wanted me to do something different. I never even had a manager tell HR when I took a vacation day. Once I was in the caribbean and I called my boss and asked him if I could take the next Mon and Tue off to lay on the beach. He said sure and never debited me for the time. Again, they really can't tell what you are doing in the field that easily anyway.

I eventually got laid off in a corporate merger. They paid me for all my back vacation time. I was there for 15 years and had several different bosses.

07-08-2010, 07:12 PM
That's a two way street. I always made a point of becoming friends with my manager. That was easier in my case because as a field sales guy I traveled with him a lot. Reviews were a non event because I already knew if I screwed up on something or my manager wanted me to do something different. I never even had a manager tell HR when I took a vacation day. Once I was in the caribbean and I called my boss and asked him if I could take the next Mon and Tue off to lay on the beach. He said sure and never debited me for the time. Again, they really can't tell what you are doing in the field that easily anyway.

I eventually got laid off in a corporate merger. They paid me for all my back vacation time. I was there for 15 years and had several different bosses.

It certainly is a two way street. However, we always taught that It is the responsibility of the manager to take the initiative. I am sorry to hear about the layoff, I have been there and know how that feels. It's never an easy thing...

07-09-2010, 12:02 AM
However, we always taught that It is the responsibility of the manager to take the initiative.

That's the right approach. It's part of the responsibility of being a manager in general.

02-21-2011, 09:09 PM
I do think reviews can be a good thing. When positive attitudes and constructive criticism is used that is. As the boss I would go into the situation with a well-written list of what your employee has done with corrective actions and praises attached. You should always be prepared, if you seem unorganized they will most likely not take you seriously (and from experience, especially if you are younger than them). It is likely that the employee may not take the help with open arms. This is where keeping a positive attitude helps. Also, once you come up with an action plan and the employee agrees to it, hold yourself and especially them accountable. At the next review make sure to address what has and has not changed from the last one and where to go from there.

02-22-2011, 12:45 AM
Is there any reason that has to wait for a once or twice a year review? As an employee by the time a review rolled around I knew what kind of job I was doing. Reviews never added much for me. I'd rather my employer talk to me more often. When I do something well tell me. When I could use some improvement in a certain area tell me and tell me how I can do better.

I think the better approach is to consistently let your employees know how they're doing throughout the year instead of waiting every 6 months or a year to tell them.

02-22-2011, 03:10 PM
I'd agree with that Vangogh. I always try to give the people who work with and for me immediate feedback. If they do well, I tell them so. If they do something that needs work, I tell them that too. Waiting until once a year means discussing things that happened months ago. By that time, most of the positive reinforcement is gone.

02-23-2011, 11:00 AM
Most experts on the subject say that reinforcement, either positive or negative, is more effective when it's given closer in time to the actions being reinforced. The longer you wait the less of a connection is seen between the review and what's being reviewed.

I'm sure there are companies that do a better job offering reviews than others. I didn't work for any of them, but I'm sure they exist. Still I think the better approach is letting your employees know how they're doing more often instead of waiting. I also think reviews would work better if they weren't so closely tied to raises. I think they become less about the review in that case and more about the raise.

Business Attorney
02-23-2011, 05:33 PM
Frequent feedback and periodic reviews are not mutually exclusive. In fact, both are essential to good employee growth. In an organization where a single boss closely guides his employees, frequent feedback may be enough. Where input comes from multiple people, trying to prioritize the feedback, and even perhaps sift through conflicting feedback, is the role of the formal review process. Ideally, the formal review summarizes and reinforces feedback received throughout the year. If there are surprises in the formal review, then there is a problem with the feedback process.

02-23-2011, 11:25 PM
True. However in my experience most employers gave semi regular reviews as their only form of feedback and tied them too closely to the raise you might or might not get. I don't want to imply that reviews are a bad thing. My bad if I'm doing that. It's more that for me personally they were never helpful and pretty much all the places I worked handled the review process poorly.

My point is really the frequent feedback is important. If reviews are given they should be as you describe, as a summary that reinforces the more frequent feedback and no in lieu of more frequent feedback.

02-23-2011, 11:48 PM
When I had a real job, my situation wasn't the norm. I was a field salesman living in Florida working for a California company. My boss was in California. I was lucky to work for some very good sales managers. The good ones would come out and travel with you for a week frequently and want to visit your important clients. This gave them the opportunity to improve you sales skills, tell you where you stand etc. Reviews were completely a non event. Also, while you did get a raise in reviews, it wasn't a big issue as you made the most money through good sales.

While thats not possible or practical for most workers, it is a good way to manage employees and deal with review types of issues.

03-07-2011, 09:45 AM
i dont give formal reviews to my employees.... ....rather lots of feedback and hopefully lots of praise....i like to think we all have the same goals....they dont sit around and talk, email or text at all and they get lots of compliments from the customers......im pretty happy with our way....
..i think it would take a lot of skill to do a real review right...i wouldnt want to try it.. ..we all have negatives...

03-07-2011, 11:04 AM
rather lots of feedback and hopefully lots of praise

That's what I think works best. I think it's ok to let people know what aren't doing well along with what they are doing well and I think it's important to let them know more often than once or twice a year. Now if you do that and also want to have a formal review then I think the review is fine. It simply can't substitute for the more consistent feedback throughout the year.

04-16-2011, 05:30 PM
As a reviewee I usually got positive feedback and for my personality that just motivated me to work harder. I was always given something to work on and I always made it a point to improve in those areas but generally the feedback I received was that it's not an area of concern, just something I could do better at. Depending on where I worked I would have one or two formal reviews a year but I like the idea of quarterly reviews.

I'm currently the manager of an App Dev team for an Internet Retailer so the tables are switched and I'm the reviewer. There is certainly some stress involved when I have to discuss problem areas. Many times the employee already knows about the problem and take makes it a lot easier but it's still not fun. What is really tough is when we go through multiple reviews and the same problem exists and there really isn't any progress.

At one large company they replaced standard employee reviews with blind peer reviews. There was still a discussion with the manager to review things that would bubble up from enough other employees but it was really rewarding when those things were positive. It really seemed to bring the team closer together and work with each others strengths better.

From my perspective as a manager the overall process is stressful and time consuming so it's hard to keep scheduling them but the more we have them the better the team seems to function. I guess that's why they call it work. :-)