Sunday, September 25, 2005

Thanks to "anonymous" commenter, who sent me the Joel-on-Software post, which talks about the negative effect that performance reviews have on, well, performance.

And I wonder: if it's been proven many times over that "...people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task or for doing that task successfully simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all.." (Harvard Business Review Sept/Oct 93), then why do we keep the review system?

I don't understand how that's possible, actually, since I think that if I have a reward at the end, I usually try harder. I mean, that obviously depends on whether I place any value on the reward offered, of course.

But if I thought: damn, if I do this right, I'll have an extra week of vacation, I'd definitely work harder at it.

I mean, sure, I work pretty hard on almost everything. But sometimes there are things that have to take a higher priority and the thing that would get me a reward would surely become the highest priority, wouldn't it? I'd be stupid NOT to prioritize it.

So I don't understand that Harvard stat. I have a hard time believing it.

Maybe it's because managers generally reward behaviours/tasks that their employees don't like doing or aren't good at. And maybe employees DON'T get rewarded for the things they actually LIKE doing and therefore, do a better job at?

Skewed statistic, anyway.

And I don't agree that performance reviews are ALWAYS bad. Some sort of review system is necessary to keep people on track; to help them understand what's important to the boss or their company and to help the boss/company understand what's important to the employee. Both sides tend to lose sight of this if it isn't refreshed in their memories every once in a while. It can give them renewed vigour in their pursuits of their goals.

But I certainly don't think that a once-a-year meeting is exactly the best format for this system. I think people need to have consistent monitoring and be told when they do something if it's not on the right track. Don't tell me six months later, when all I can do is look back on it and cringe.

Performance enhancement should be ongoing and never a surprise at the end of the year. You should know exactly what was expected of you and whether or not you achieved it before you even go in that room.

Your boss should know what it was/is that the employee wanted to achieve and the reward that they were shooting for and it should not be a hard decision as to whether they get that agreed reward.

I don't understand how, with all of the books out there on the subject, reviews can be so far off the mark from what they're supposed to be! Doesn't everyone know by now that objectives are supposed to be:
1. specific
2. measurable
3. achievable
4. relevent or realistic (depending on which book you read)
5. time-based

And doesn't everyone know that these objectives are supposed to be reviewed frequently and possibly changed if necessary?

If it were actually done this way, maybe reviews actually WOULD have a positive effect instead of being that dreaded meeting when employers and employees end up in a battle (ahem - I mean, "negotiation") and someone always ends up feeling cheated.

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