SURVEY SAYS: Performance Appraisals

February 18, 2014 ( – Last week, I asked NewsDash readers what they think about their companies’ employee appraisal/performance review process.

Ninety-four percent of responding readers reported their firms use a formal employee appraisal/performance review program, while 5.9% indicated their firms do not. Nearly three in ten (29.4%) of respondents said they are “very dissatisfied” with their companies’ programs. Twenty-eight percent reported being somewhat satisfied, 22.1% are somewhat dissatisfied and 5.9% are very satisfied. Ten percent of respondents had no opinion.

When asked what they like about the appraisal process, nearly four in ten (39.7%) responding readers like being able to let their boss know about the work they’ve done. About one-third each said they can get input from their boss about their work (32.4%) and they usually get a raise after appraisal time (33.8%). Thirteen percent indicated they like that the process helps set goals for their careers, while 35.3% reported they like nothing about the appraisal process.

In “other” responses (8.8%), readers said they like that the appraisal process provides a chance to self-assess their achievements against previously stated goals, that they get or can do a peer review, that they are able to do a self-evaluation and that it can be an affirmation of skills and build positive feelings.

When asked what they disliked about the appraisal process, 34.3% said rarely is any action taken on goals. Nearly one-third (32.8%) stated it takes to much time, 31.3% feel uncomfortable rating themselves, 22.4% indicated their bosses do not really know what they do, and 7.5% reported there is nothing they dislike about the process.

“Other” responses included:

  • Nothing comes of anything discussed
  • Manager seems to view it as a necessary evil and an inconvenience.
  • Waste of time and doesn't achieve anything.
  • I wish it occurred semi-annually, at least, rather than annually; mid-year check would be nice
  • All the managers get together as a group to rate people they don't know on a bell curve, with office politics rather than performance determining where each employee falls on the curve.
  • Too much personal bias. Halo/Horn effect. Percentage increase doesn't truly reflect Work/goals accomplished.
  • Our CEO told his fellow directors how to review people. He is a coward & so are the people who report to him.
  • Too often employees are not rated on the right things.
  • We jump through hoops to complete this task for no purpose, nothing happens as a result of spending time on it.
  • Manager doesn't take it seriously
  • Highly arbitrary. No transparency about how the process works.
  • I think they should reduce it from quarterly to semi-annually.
  • The tendency to focus on one point in time, instead of a true year overview of performance
  • Goals set in Q1 can become irrelevant by Q4, however that doesn't mean they come off the form!
  • It's rarely done on time and as a result, my raise is delayed - retroactive, but delayed by months.
  • The appraisal process is convoluted and time-consuming, made to look "scientifically objective," when in fact the rating system boils down to a subjective vote among the directors of our office, most of whom don't really know what my job is. Even then, the AVP can and occasionally does arbitrarily trump the outcome with his own.
  • The appraisal process for most employees does not reflect how well they do their job.
  • Appraisals are reviewed with management before employees so any feedback from employees is never heard by anyone other than direct manager.
  • It's just a forced ranking numbers game!
  • The generic form is sometimes hard to use in my specific job functions.
  • I can get 'Exceeds Expectations' and still get a miserable raise; there is no relationship
  • It's often similar year after year
  • It's a farce
  • I cannot anonymously appraise others.
  • Ratings are already set before appraisal is completed. Mgmt is instructed how many they can give out of each rating and they are set prior to when appraisals are completed. So, in essence, the appraisal process and completion of goals doesn't even matter.
  • Too subjective
  • It seems out-of-date/touch with today's business environment. I'd rather see something along the lines of "...give me this day my daily..."
  • Our management tends to mix personal feelings with work related issues; additionally any, however accurate, negative feedback an EE might have of the Company changes their view of you as an EE and an individual. Pretty one-sided.
  • Not all the corporate areas rated relate to the job I do (in health care - but the finance side)


The majority of the verbatim comments can be summed up with one reader's sentiment: “It is inherently capricious, subjective and a complete waste of time.” Several said the process hurts morale, some commented about the politics/method of the process, while some pointed out that dialogue about performance should take place throughout the year. A few suggested employees should also be able to review the performance of managers. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Once a year it is the most painful part of my job.”


Not much thought seems to be put into manager comments. Manager is not very close to my day to day activities.


Everyone does it because they have to do it. It is a waste of time and it doesn't achieve anything. It's pointless and meaningless.


they are a waste of time


The review process is something that mediocre managers can hide behind. By the way, why don't we get to rate our managers? That might be more instructive to upper management than the managers reviewing us.


Our reviews are called Job Dialogues and they are just that - a dialogue! Goals are clearly communicated and discussed throughout the year. There are never any suprises in the end.


It takes up a lot of time and causes a lot of morale problems, all so we can justify the miniscule pay increase everyone will get regardless of the results of the review process.


I work in HR and I see the wide variances in ratings given by bosses. It is SO subjective and easier to get good ratings with some bosses than others. There are some who too easily give outstanding ratings, and others (like mine) from whom it is difficult or impossible to get an outstanding rating.


Our board determines each individual’s increase based on input from 1-2 people. Not Good that the board is involved. Not Good that 1-2 people have that much influence regardless of what the evals say!


Our performance reviews demotivating & demoralizing. I don't like giving reviews & I don't like getting reviewed.


Employees should have more of an opportunity to comment on the performance of their superiors. Not trying to slam the good leaders out there, but so many managers and directors know how to make themselves look good at the expense of their employees. If I am going to be assessed based on the value of my work - shouldn't a manager or leader be assessed on the value of their management/leadership? And who better to provide feedback then the very people they lead. Yes - one has to be careful about disgruntled employees - but employees have been at the mercy of disgruntled managers for years!


The head of our HR department insists it's mandatory and gives a deadline, yet the deadline is not enforced for "some" and when I reported directly to him he only completed my appraisal one out of four times and then I never got a signed copy. What is the purpose???

Verbatim (cont.)

We provide feedback on our coworkers and managers but nothing changes. Rumor has it that upper management has set limits on the number of employees who can be rated above standard, so why bother.


We receive across the board raises, so there is no incentive to improve performance when those who do less work get the same raise you get.


Each year the process changes. Sometimes it seems like the same review is said year after year.


It is a subjective joke. The rating system has categories that are completely incompatible to the job I perform and the goals and comments sections require an essay format...not everyone's cup of tea! I prefer fiction anyway....


I view them as a necessary evil. For poorly performing employees, a bad review can serve as a wake-up call - and provide the employer with backup in case of termination. However, no firm I have ever worked for has been transparent about how the process works, leaving it subject to the usual rumor mill about how people get rated. For example, some firms use a "forced curve" to rate people, even though a strong majority may have exceeded the goals set for them for the year.


Once a year it is the most painful part of my job.


As a somewhat cynical HR Dir., I get frustrated when I receive reviews that indicate an employee is performing well and then later when that same employee is being disciplined, I'm told the employee has been committing the offense time and again; the review often comes back to hurt the employer in disciplinary proceedings.


They're a sham


Performance management, as it is practiced in most organizations, has evolved into a burdensome, dreaded exercise that attempts to provide protection against litigation if some adverse job action has to happen. As opposed to a one time a year root canal effort, good performance management should be a continuous communication between managers and the principal assets that carry out the strategic initiatives of the organization.


When done well, they are great tools. When not done well, they are a waste of everyone's time.


The "goals" section is strange. What am I supposed to write? "I'd like to take your job, Mr. Boss, and move up the ladder." And what are you supposed to write for "development" actions? After doing the same job for 30 years, what type of development am I supposed to seek out? I'd like to seek out a way to do a NEW job!


I think it's important to have an official recap of the year, but feedback needs to be given all year long. An employee should never be caught off guard by what is said in an annual review.

Verbatim (cont.)

I'm not a fan of the process, as it does nothing for career management. It's simply a year-by-year measurement for a raise. I understand why it exists, especially working for a firm of 3,000+ employees: meritocracy has to be layered with paper.


For well performing employees, it's a waste of time. I believe they only exist to keep formal documentation for those employees that may need to be terminated.


It is a strange process here. Everything is approved before the employee knows anything. Raises are not really based off it and there is little room for advancement. So the pert to doing a good job is..........


We're forced to tie performance and goals to 4 company initiatives. It is quite difficult to do that if you are not in sales, merchandising or operations.


I have to say I do miss the review. It gives me time to REALLY talk to my Boss about what I feel.


There have been numerous studies documenting that formal employee appraisals/performance reviews do not come anywhere near to meeting the stated mission. They inflict unnecessary emotional (dis)stress and make no one really happy. Most importantly, they waste time, energy, resources and money.


Conversations should be happening throughout the year in regards to performance, goals and employee development. It shouldn't wait until year end. It isn't very productive then because who can remember what all you did for a whole year at one time? If you want something formal, how about more frequent?


In theory they're great - in reality they suck.


Reviews never actually seem related to bonus or raises, so what is the point?


The most effective supervisors are evaluating and developing their employees throughout the year and generally only memorializing their thoughts at "evaluation time".


Our performance reviews need improvement.


I usually do well with appraisals; however, I feel that the process is subjective. If you give a manager anything to complain about, not matter how small, they can rate you poorly. Also, it seems year over year, that the actual objectives are becoming more general/generic and not very specific. I guess this makes it easier and quicker for the manager. Doesn't give me a warm fuzzy that these are taken seriously or not.

Verbatim (cont.)

It’s meaningless; I could find the cure for cancer and end world hunger, but if I didn't a small blurb for managers, then I would have failed. When your manager doesn't understand what you do, you're screwed, no way around it.


At my company, management huddles in December to "calibrate" employees (rate them) by comparing all employees who are in the same job grade, even if their job responsibilities and expectations are very different (apples to oranges). This is before self-appraisals are even completed, let alone formal appraisals. Raise decisions are then made based on those calibrations. It is supposed to be pay-for-performance, but official policy is to deliver formal appraisals one week ahead of pay info, even if the raise info is already known ... say, what?


When your leader says that they can't give you a higher rating in an area because it wouldn't look good to have so many, you kind of lose faith in it actually being a true reflection of the quality of your work.


There is a lack of consistency from manager to manager that creates distrust and complaints of favoritism.


At other employers I dreaded reviews because no matter what messes I had cleaned up or new processes I had instituted, it was never enough. My current employer thanks me for all my hard work and gives me a raise. It is short and sweet. I am happy with the process as it is here and am inspired to do my best at all times as it IS appreciated.


I'd rather have a colonoscopy and then a root canal than do/have an appraisal. But, then again, I'd hate to get that wrong, too.


Because everyone in the dept is compared to everyone else and we must meet the 20-70-10 rule, someone is not going to get a good that right???


The company decides how much everyone's merit increase will be several months before appraisals are written.


I do think individual reviews are important to not only address any areas in performance that need to be improved, but to strengthen the relationship between ER and EE by supporting and validating all the hard work, effort and skill the EE brings to the Company. Feeling un(der)appreciated is a fast track to discontent which spreads like the flu.


I don't find a lot of value to the process and think the feedback, good and bad, should occur throughout the year.


It is inherently capricious, subjective and a complete waste of time.



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.