Performance Reviews Get Negative Rating From Most Execs and Employees

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Nov. 4 — Performance reviews are rarely or never “open, honest and meaningful,” according to a majority (58 percent) of U.S. and Canadian executives, managers and employees.

This finding should worry employers because more than one-third of the degree of employees' enthusiasm about recommending their organization has to do with how well they think their performance appraisals are handled, Atlanta-based consulting firm LeadershipIQ, which conducted the survey from January to March among some 32,410 respondents, said in an Oct. 21 press release.

Look for ‘Proudest Moments.'

One major way to fix performance reviews, LeadershipIQ added, is to avoid stock phrases when talking to employees and instead ask them, “What are the moments you were most proud of this past year?”

LeadershipIQ's Lyn Adler said in an Oct. 30 e-mail to Bloomberg BNA: “When employees have trouble coming up with their proudest moments, it can signal two things. Number one, this is a low performer. Low performers are problem bringers who don't tend to see beyond the problem.”

But the second possibility is “the organization isn't teaching performance expectations well enough,” Adler said. “The problem comes from all the unclear common euphemisms, admonitions and clichés that populate the performance appraisals, codes of conduct and mission statements in far too many organizations.” For example, she said, “Leaders can't just say ‘be accountable' and expect employees to know what it means.”

Instead, Adler suggested using “word pictures” with employees undergoing a performance review. For example, she said, a range of possibilities for evaluating the employee's performance could be worded as follows: “Needs work: When new changes are implemented, I resist and push for a return to the status quo. Good work: I openly support change initiatives and I find opportunities to help complete projects more quickly and effectively. Great work: I do everything in the good work category, plus … I encourage and convince my fellow employees to support change initiatives.”

According to Adler, “Word pictures help employees learn to self-evaluate and self-correct, and give them something significant to work with when it comes to listing their proudest moments.”


To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at