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Performance Review Peril

Performance Review Peril

Most office workers participate in annual traditional performance reviews, but a large majority call the process outdated, time-consuming and stressful. “Performance Reviews Get a Failing Grade,” (a survey of 1,500 office workers issued by Adobe), details how traditional performance reviews are considered unproductive and irrelevant by employees and their managers who go through them.

Eighty-eight percent of the surveyed office workers report going through structured performance reviews, which include written reviews, often with rankings and ratings, on a mandated frequency. Many respondents say these reviews drive competition among coworkers, increase personal stress, and result in dramatic reactions such as crying and quitting.

“The findings from this survey show how time-consuming, cumbersome and demotivating performance reviews are for many employees,” said Donna Morris, executive vice president of Customer & Employee Experience at Adobe. “That was our experience at Adobe as well, prior to 2012. We abolished the review process and instead focused on ensuring employees and managers set priorities, gave and received feedback and charted career growth on an ongoing basis. The results have been higher engagement, improved retention and stronger company performance.”

Key Survey Findings

According to office workers whose current companies have structured performance reviews:

Traditional reviews are a waste of time, especially for managers

  • Office workers and managers consider performance reviews an unproductive use of their time.

  • On average, managers spend 17 hours per employee preparing for a performance review.

  • Close to two-thirds of office workers (64 percent) and managers (62 percent) agree that performance reviews are outdated ways of managing performance.

  • More than half of office workers feel that performance reviews have no impact on how they do their job (59 percent) and are a needless HR requirement (58 percent).

Performance reviews cause stress

Structured performance reviews can elicit dramatic reactions, as rankings and ratings create competition and breed stress.

  • More than half of office workers agree that performance reviews put them in competition with one another (57 percent), and their manager plays favorites (61 percent).

  • Close to two-thirds of Millennials (61 percent) would switch jobs to a company with no formal performance reviews even if pay and job level were the same.

  • One in three Millennials has cried after a performance review (34 percent), 47 percent have looked for another job and 30 percent say they’ve quit outright.

  • Men report especially strong reactions. One in four men has cried after a performance review (25 percent men vs. 18 percent women). Men are also more likely to have looked for another job (43 percent men vs. 31 percent women) or quit (28 percent men vs. 11 percent women).

Workers want a change

Workers are looking for a collaborative process with regular and qualitative feedback.

  • A vast majority (80 percent) of office workers wants feedback in the moment rather than delivering aggregated feedback after a period of months.
  • More than half (55 percent) of office workers and 66 percent of managers wish that their companies would get rid of or change the current performance review process.
  • Office workers believe companies that have abolished traditional reviews are more likely to be flexible (46 percent), have happier employees (44 percent) and have a collaborative culture (38 percent).



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