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The Source of Your Dreaded Performance Review Exposed

http://0.gravatar.com/avatar/ad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536?s=68 Blake Bos wrote this on September 22, 2016


In 1956 Robert Ammons published a research paper titled, “Effects of knowledge of performance” in the Journal of General Psychology. This paper summarized research done on knowledge of performance back to the early 1900’s. In it he concluded knowledge of performance increased learning and motivation.

Little did he know, that paper would be cited over 100 times in the next 40 years, and be a driving force behind what we now know as the performance review.

It’s hard to believe one paper helped create something as prevalent as the performance review, and it’s even harder to believe it would take over 60 years to bring light to the inaccuracies in Ammons’ and others’ work.

“Few concepts in psychology have been written about more uncritically and incorrectly than that of feedback…”-Latham and Lock (1991)

Finally, in 1996 two researchers, Kluger and DeNisi, went through 2,500 research papers, 500 reports, and published a report in the Psychological Bulletin. It’s taken two decades for the world to start to wake up, but what they found may someday be considered the beginning of the end of the dreaded performance review.

“Since the beginning of the century, feedback interventions produced negative—but largely ignored—effects on performance.”-Kluger and DeNisi (1996)

The evidence is overwhelming that performance reviews do not increase performance, and even worse, sometimes decreases performance. On top of all of this, it’s safe to say people can’t stand them.

“…87 percent of employees and managers felt performance reviews were neither useful nor effective.”
-The Psychological Bulletin (2005)

So what is the fix, how can we get feedback on how we’re doing and how to get better?

The miracle that is natural feedback
If you read Kluger and DeNisi’s paper from 1996 it’s evident the goal of the organization should be to create a work climate where we can learn through trial and error.

“…the amount of feedback provided by the agent had only a meager effect on performance, whereas other variables, such as climate, had strong effects on performance.”-Harris & Rosenthal (2005)

In this situation, feedback happens naturally when you either succeed or fail at the task you’re trying to accomplish. The workplace environment is also one of the few variables that have been shown to have a strong effect on performance.

Create a great climate for your team
In order to learn and improve, people need to be able to fail responsibly, and feel like that’s ok as long as they’re not risking too much. In order to know this, it’s important that leaders or influencers on a team model this behavior by recognizing others when they do it and doing it themselves.

That’s why we’re obsessed with making recognition fun, timely, and convenient with HeyTaco!. We believe recognizing the right behaviors on your team is the healthiest way to promote the climate needed for a high performing team.

What should we do with the performance review?
People need to know how they’re doing, but the performance review is a terrible way of letting people know that. Leaders need to do the work to regularly have conversations with their team so they know what’s expected of them, how they’re doing, and that they feel like they’re able to do those things.

We don’t need a rating, we need honest relationships with those around us; and the freedom to learn from our natural environment. Organizations’ time would be far better spent creating this kind of climate rather than a complex system to make sure leadership can look at a report to see how everyone is performing. Because at the end of the day, how much does that fancy report help your team or company?