Most of us have been on the receiving end (or giving end) of a negative experience with performance reviews. Based on my experience, most of them are a waste of time and a morale killer.

I am going to venture a guess that no one (with perhaps a few very rare exceptions) enjoys, profits from and/or believes that the performance reviews they’ve had have been a positive and pleasurable experience.

Following are six problems with the way we currently do them and how to improve them:

1. They Aren’t Frequent Enough

By law, many organizations and churches are mandated to have a yearly performance review. And, in many places, that’s what happens, with very little in between from one year to the next. Nary a word is said as to how somebody is doing between one yearly review and the next.

Discussions (not formal reviews) need to be happening regularly–at least once a week. The problem is that everyone is so incredibly busy (crazy busy, I may add) and these discussions seldom, if ever, take place. Most employees and volunteers I’ve talked with would appreciate regular updates as to how they’re doing and what they can do to improve.

2. They Are One-Way Conversations

It’s mostly about how the employee/volunteer is doing–or not doing. Seldom does the employee/volunteer get to speak into the life of the boss. What would happen if the “boss” were to ask the employee/volunteer questions such as:

Is there anything you would like me to do that I’m not doing that would make your job easier and more enjoyable?

  • Is there anything I do that de-motivates you or keeps you from doing your best?
  • Is there anything you would like to say to me that you have not had (or been given) the opportunity to say?

3. No Ongoing Support Is Offered

 I think it would be great when the boss points out an area of needed improvement, that support/resources/suggestions are offered rather than just pointing out that things are not going well, leaving it up to the employee/volunteer to figure it out and address it. In many cases they’re not sure how to address it, or they probably would have already done so. They need help and support. Do we really want them to succeed, or not?

4. No Accountability Is Set Up

When the performance review is over, seldom is something arranged for a future discussion within a short period of time so as to monitor progress. How hopeless can it feel when dissatisfaction is expressed by a boss and no support/resources are offered and there’s no checking in to see how things are going? It leaves the worker in limbo–not sure how to proceed or exactly what the expectations are.

5. No Encouragement Is Offered

There is a great book out there entitled, “Practicing Affirmation.” (You will find a Book Note for it on this website.) We all know it’s easier to receive constructive criticism when it’s given in a context of positive belief and affirmation. It works with kids, and it works with adults.

A pat on the back goes a lot farther than a kick in the pants. If you do need to kick someone in the pants, do it in the context of three pats on the back. In some cases (far too many), the only time someone hears from the boss is when they have done something wrong. When your boss sends you a message that he wants to talk, is your first thought, “Oh, he wants to give me a raise or thank me for a job well done? I don’t think so! “What did I do now” might, more likely, be your first thought.

6. They Are Have-To’s | Not Want-To’s

As mentioned earlier, in many cases we are mandated by law to give yearly performance reviews. We do them because we have to. If there wasn’t a law mandating at least one yearly, is it possible we would not do them at all? (I think that might well be the case.) Let’s change that mindset, and offer frequent conversations to those who report to us because we want to.

Let’s go out of our way to honor them, thank them, commend them publicly and do all of this because we believe in them, want them to succeed and genuinely care about them. Is that asking too much? If you are too busy to do this, unbusy yourself!

For more on this subject, check out the book (there is a Book Note  for it, also on this website) “Get Rid of The Performance Review” by Samuel A. Culbert and Lawrence Rout. Guaranteed to get you rethinking on what is currently happening–both in the market place as well as in the church. It’s time for a change. The health of your organization, church or group depends on it, as well as the health of those who report to you.