How to Make Job Reviews Less Terrible

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Do job performance reviews help? A 2012 study from AccountTemps says 94% of company chief financial officers call formal job reviews either "somewhat or very effective" in aiding employee performance. But only 31% of employees believe the same thing.

It's the employees that may be on to something, according to a study on employee performance reviews in the Journal of Personnel Psychology.

The study, by Kansas State University business management professor Satoris Culbertson with help from researchers at Eastern Kentucky University and Texas A&M, shows that no employee — "even people who are motivated to learn" — sees negative performance reviews in a positive light.

Culbertson and his staff established some basic sketches of employees based on their workplace performance habits:

  • "Learning goal-oriented people" like to learn for the sake of learning and often pursue challenges despite setbacks.
  • "Performance-prove goal-oriented people" want to prove they are competent to perform a job.
  • "Performance-avoid goal-oriented people" want to avoid looking foolish.

While all three groups say they disapproved of employee reviews, what surprised Culbertson was that even learning goal-oriented staffers, who would seemingly welcome feedback designed to help them perform better, and add more value to their careers, hated job reviews, too.

"Surprisingly, we found that learning-oriented people were just as dissatisfied with an appraisal that had negative feedback as the performance-oriented people were," Culbertson says. "Nobody likes to get negative feedback — even those individuals who aren't trying to prove anything to others, but instead are just trying to learn as much as possible."

A big problem is that too many managers come off heavy-handed in job reviews and lose sight of what matters most: the elevation and motivation of employees in the workplace.

It's a problem so big that the entire job review system should be changed.