Managing People

I’m so over performance reviews

By Jim Grey (about)

It’s annual review season where I work. I wrote and delivered my team’s last week. But my heart wasn’t in it.

It’s because if I’ve done my job as my team’s leader, they already know what I think of their performance. It’s been an open conversation all along, happening most often in our weekly 1-on-1 meetings but also through in-the-moment praise and coaching. Nothing I tell them in their review should be a surprise.

And we should have also had occasional discussions about what excites them about their work, what challenges they’re facing, how well they’re working with their teams, how they’re experiencing me as their boss, what they need from me to be happier and more effective, how they do and don’t enjoy the company’s culture, and what they want from their career and their life. Hearing their full perspective on their work, the company, and their career, I have what I need to promote the best balance of happiness and productivity for them.


That’s because as their boss I am only as successful as they are. The more and better they do, the more and better I do and the company does. Giving feedback and coaching for ever greater performance is one of the primary two things a manager is for. (The other is promoting conditions that enable the best possible work to be done.)

And let’s say someone on my team had a bump in the road during the year — an incident where things really went poorly on their watch, or the quality of their work went south, or a particular behavior needed correction. If those issues have been resolved, it is often hurtful to remind them of them at review time. “I gave you a Needs Improvement rating here because of that thing earlier in the year. You know, the one you fully recovered from.”

Bah. I’d like never to deliver another performance review.

Unfortunately, every company that has employed me has based raises on review scores. (Amusingly, a couple of them have sworn review ratings weren’t coupled to raises — but every time I asked for a larger-than-normal raise, the first question asked was whether their review score justified it.) So I still do reviews.

But if you’re doing the valuable (and time-consuming) work of giving feedback and coaching to your team all year, reviews take little time to write. You don’t have to think as hard about their performance all year because it’s been an ongoing topic of discussion. Just summarize what you’ve talked about all along, give some examples, assign appropriate ratings, and you’re done.