Those Dreaded Performance Reviews: Editor/Publisher's Column
Credit Union Times hosted our second Not for CEOs live stream of 2013 this week on a topic we all love to hate: annual performance reviews. Our goal was to change that image and focus on what they can be good for. What can managers and employees take away from them?
At one time, I had a manager who did not give reviews. There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing what you’re doing right and what you need to improve upon. When I asked the first time about it, this person said, “What? You got a pay raise.” Not helpful.
One of the key concepts that came out of the session was that an annual review is not frequent enough to be effective if that is all it’s going to be. Managers should be giving and receiving feedback on a regular basis in order to make it the most useful. I’d add track performance throughout the year. Otherwise, you’ll end up just recalling recent months. Some employees deserve to be recognized for marked strides made over the full year that you won’t notice over a shorter period of time. Others know reviews are coming and straighten up in the short term.
Compliments are almost always welcomed, except for a few shy folks out there. Constructive criticism is always good, no matter which direction it flows. Take it in, try to objectively determine whether it’s valid or not, and if it is, embrace it. Many times managers feel a pressure to have all of the answers, but often it’s best to learn about yourself and the business by listening to those who are reporting to you.
The 360-degree review can be a good way to accomplish this, but for that to have practical application, a trusting environment must already exist. No one will provide anywhere near an honest assessment of their boss if that comfort level doesn’t exist, and even when it does, they’ll likely tone it down some. Even colleagues at the same level will take a tone appropriate to office politics.
You can view the archive of this event as well as past video casts at CUTimes.com/NotforCEOs to get more great advice on assisting employees with leadership development and how to get what you need in your career progression even when you have a boss who is a poor communicator.
Our panelists – Susan Mitchell, president of Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates in Boulder City, Nev.; Bill Clancy, vice president of retail strategy at Lake Michigan Credit Union in Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Michael Molaka, vice president of operations at BrightStar Credit Union in Sunrise, Fla. – highlighted that the “autocratic” (Sue’s word and entirely apropos) management style of the past doesn’t necessarily work any more.
The workplace is populated by four different generations of employees that need to be not just managed but also assisted toward their aspirations. Many employee reviews are akin to JFK’s famous quote: Ask not what your company can do for you, ask what you can do for your company.
The concept really is ironically communist in a capitalist nation. Employee reviews must necessarily include the technical aspects of the job, but change it 1) to reflect how a particular employee’s role is fulfilling the organization’s mission and 2) to allow the employee to discuss what would make them happy and how the organization can fulfill employee needs.
Managers should also go beyond patting employees on the back for a job well done. Compliment them in front of upper management. Current managers should not feel threatened by hiring, developing and bragging about good employees. Those folks are the ones who are making you look good, so highlight the stars because they deserve it. And if that makes you look even better, so be it.
One of the challenges all of our panelists agreed on is that the current corporate structure that requires managers to produce work in addition to management. It causes managers to set aside the important strategic aspects of management such as mentoring their team in favor of the fire drill du jour. Add to the mix that many managers now have too many direct reports anyway. The end result can be a lack of depth at the organization that leads to ruin.
Finally, a delicate matter that is near and dear to my heart: Don’t take the easy way out and give positive reviews to people who don’t deserve them. It does not help that person grow. It does not move them toward the organization’s goals if that’s even going to be possible. It does not help you grow as a manager if you avoid unpleasantness. Ultimately, and most importantly, it devalues the glowing reviews of those on your team that truly deserve it.