Creative Leadership

Why I Don’t Like Yearly Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are pretty much standard operating procedure at most organizations these days.  But I’ve never liked them very much.  They’re awkward, tense meetings, and I honestly don’t think employees or the employer gets much out of it.  The truth is, you should be reviewing your employees pretty much every day.

Tweak small not big.  Talk to them about their performance on a regular basis or project by project.  Influence research indicates that you’ll have much more impact guiding employees through many small corrections rather than waiting until once a year and unloading on them all at once.

If you store things up and do the “yearly dump” I think it creates many more hard feelings.  Employees need to be reviewed, encouraged, and corrected.  But do it as the problems (or good stuff) happens.  Don’t wait until they’ve forgotten what the reprimand was about in the first place.


  1. Years ago, I was working for a major firm and was quite unhappy. I had planned a short vacation to interview for a job in another state just two weeks before my annual review. The afternoon before I was to take off, a major project with a new client was placed on my desk with very little direction and the boss had no time to explain. I did my best, but missed the mark and he had to step in while I was away and make it what he wanted it to be. Needless to say, my review, which has been planned over a nice lunch, was moved to the HR office. Clearly, my performance all year had been great, clients loved me, great results. But this one event so close to the annual pow wow cost me my raise. It was the final straw for me. I left less than six months later.

  2. An annual performance review is better than none. I am still waiting for my first performance review after 5 1/2 years in my present position.

  3. Tragically, I think the practice of yearly performance reviews are maintained because, in many cases, it gives the employer the ability to avoid handing out raises or paying their employees more.

    Think about it: No one’s perfect. We’re all likely to make mistakes over the course of a year. And even if our overall performance is impressive, if one keeps track of every mistake and presents them to you in one sitting, it doesn’t look good.

    I prefer Phil’s approach. It requires a supervisor or boss to be more alert, more aware of what his employees are doing, but it’s honest and the most efficient use of everyone’s time and energy.

  4. My managers do handle things as they come up during the year – for the most part. My annual review is usually a time to discuss what I want to tell them. They give me some feedback from co-workers and we review my training during the year. But it isn’t a time to rehash all my mistakes (unless I bring them up).

  5. I agree with you, Phil. Annual reviews should be the accumulation of a year’s worth of input, not the sole source of input. (I love the Manager Tools podcast because they teach how feedback should happen every day, and reviews should happen once a quarter, not once a year.) You said it right: tweak small, not big.

  6. The worst of all performance reviews are the ones where you have to fill out a form grading yourself and turn it in. How are you supposed to be honest on that?

  7. The only performance review that means anything to me is the one Jesus gives me daily…

    Hebrews 13:16
    Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

    Luke 6:38  
    Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

    Believe those words and head on over to and please click on a link or two. By doing this you’ll be helping a fellow brother out so he can continue helping others.

    Spread the word to other brothers and sisters.


  8. Being self-employed, I’ve never had any performance review in my life, and I’m enjoying it very much. But I guess I’m being reviewed every time I’m in front of a new client.

    My car has to be reviewed every 2 years, I think inspections are not appropriate for human beings.

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