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A poor review of performance management

Published 02 July 2018

The mere mention of performance management is enough to fill some employees with dread.

While the process is viewed negatively by some staff, it can be a force for the good if applied correctly.

There has been much debate in recent years as to whether performance management is actually killing performance.

The process is generally associated with the yearly review, which can often be a terrifying prospect not just for the employee, but for management and HR also.

The perception, it appears, is that the focus always seems to be on the negative rather than the positives, which can understandably be demoralising for any worker.

Performance management is an action and set of processes designed to sustain and improve employee performance in line with an employer’s goals (1).

It’s planned as well as operational, with the aim of making sure that employees contribute positively to business objectives.

There seems to have been a growing consensus in recent years that the traditional performance management tools are in need of improvement. 

In fact it appears the less than flattering verdict of the review system is something along the lines of ‘it must do much better.’

A YouGov study found that annual appraisals are viewed as outdated in the eyes of British employees. Over half of the professionals quizzed described their appraisal at their current job as ‘pointless’ or ‘time-consuming’ and ‘stressful’ or ‘difficult’ (2).

What should cause employers significant concern is that a number of the employees questioned reported that they had experienced bullying, micro-management, aggressive and threatening behaviour from their managers during recent employment.

In the last few years it has been reported that large organisations such as Microsoft, Accenture and Deloitte have reviewed and redesigned their annual performance review processes, moving away from rigid rankings, into more fluid feedback (3).

Critics of the annual performance review highlight a number of factors in objection to the process, which include:

  • Typically the review takes place once a year, which means that any praise or positive comments and disapproval or criticism can delayed rather than being provided at a suitable and appropriate time.
  • The outcome can be questionable and not give an accurate view of performance. It is not unknown for managers charged with evaluating the performance of their staff to be reluctant to award low marks, which can be disheartening for the employee. It means that poor performers are protected and the misleading impression is given that they are performing well.
  • Specific training for managers to effectively carry out appraisals is often not provided and therefore the system is not supported by training.

Organisations can achieve the best results from their employees by managing performance within an agreed framework of planned goals, objectives and standards. Managers are often not equipped with the skills to make the process successful.

It has recently been reported in the US that in the future Artificial Intelligence may actually help to improve performance management. This is by being able to deliver real-time feedback based on consistent data collection and because it can counteract reviewer biases. (4)

Whether or not the latest technology is the only way to silence the critics is debatable. Until we have a definitive answer the best way to conduct the performance review is to a have clear and fair process in place.

Managing performance is key in order for there to be a productive and successful working relationship between managers and employees. It can help with good communication, trust, personal development and ensuring staff are engaged in their work and with the aims of the organisation.

ACAS provides guidance on how to manage staff performance and list the key points as (5):

  • Good performance management helps everyone in the organisation.
  • Where a performance management system is working well employees are more likely to engage with the goals of the business.
  • Managing performance is central to the relationship between managers and employees.
  • The way performance is managed should be fair to all staff.


1.How to manage performance | Advisory booklet [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2018 Jun 30]. Available from:

2. MHR. Shocking Survey Results Highlight Urgent Need for Change in Management Practic - Press Release Service [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jun 30]. Available from:

3. Martin J. The end of the performance review? BBC News [Internet]. 2015 Sep 9 [cited 2018 Jun 30]; Available from:

4. Becker SSL-L, Bailey MC, Scroggins  rew L. Is AI Above the Curve in Evaluating Employee Performance? | Lexology [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jul 1]. Available from:

5. How to manage performance | Advisory booklet [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2018 Jul 1]. Available from:


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