It’s time to retire your annual Performance Appraisals

Simply stop doing them. Discontinue them in your company, and seize your opportunity to simultaneously reinvent any system or process that is tied to them.

Lisa Haneberg is doing a week’s study of the automatic-pilot folly we call the Annual Performance Review. She’s calling it Escape Performance Appraisal Week at Management Craft!

This morning she posted Part 2, and I could barely contain myself in adding my own comment. In part I said,

“Oh Lisa, you are so right about this! I’m dragging my soapbox over and putting it next to yours so we can broadcast this louder and in all directions.”

So that’s what I’m doing!

The beginning of Lisa’s article today says it all for me:

“We should not employ performance appraisal systems that only the BEST managers and leader can make worthwhile.”

I’ve done the Annual Performance Review in a number of different companies, and the entire process is grueling for everyone involved – even for that manager and leader who makes the best of it. Like Lisa, I have yet to uncover a good reason we persist in keeping the process at all.

In response to Lisa’s series, Adrian Savage wrote an article on The Coyote Within that highlights how the mismatch of values between boss and subordinate complicates the review process even more so. If you are a boss ready to prepare yet another appraisal for someone, I strongly encourage you to read what Adrian has written (2010 update: Unfortunately, I can no longer locate this article online, but do think about the next sentence…) Within his post, Adrian asks if the real cause of performance appraisals are simply to assure compliance. It’s a question every boss doing an appraisal should honestly be asking themselves.

In Managing with Aloha I do have a section about how to conduct a better Performance Review if this is a process so ingrained within your company you have no choice but to live with it. It’s in the chapter on ‘Imi ola, to seek life in its highest form, for in the Managing with Aloha work culture we connect the Annual Performance Review with the professional mission statement and with the setting of goals and objectives. However I readily admit my suggestions in that section are to help you make the best of what has been a sacred cow kind of process, so you can be that BEST manager and leader Lisa referred to here:

“A great manager or leader might actually find that their performance appraisals are not a drudgery and their people do not dread them. But here is the point – that’s not because of the system, it is because the leader or manager has created an environment where open and trusting conversations happen as a matter of course. In this case, having to go through the appraisal may not feel much different than most other conversations.”

If you are the decision maker with the authority to own this decision, be bold and do the right thing: Retire the Performance Appraisal process in your company once and for all.


  1. says

    Scrap Performance Appraisals – Part 3

    Yeehaaww! I’m stirring up the blogsphere a bit. I’d like to start this post off by acknowledging the folks who have linked to this series and offered their own spin on the topic of performance appraisals: Rosa over at Talking