Another bogus element is the idea that pay is a function of performance, and that the words being spoken in a performance review will affect pay. But usually they don’t. I believe pay is primarily determined by market forces, with most jobs placed in a pay range prior to an employee’s hiring.
Most performance reviews are staged as « objective » commentary, as if any two supervisors would reach the same conclusions about the merits and faults of the subordinate. But consider the well-observed fact that when people switch bosses, they often receive sharply different evaluations from the new bosses to whom they now report.
Worse, bosses apply the same rating scale to people with different functions. They don’t redo the checklist for every different activity. As a result, bosses reduce their global sentiments to a set of metrics that captures the unique qualities of neither the person nor the job.
The No. 1 reason for that reluctance is that employees want to turn to somebody who understands their distinctive talents and way of thinking, or knows them sufficiently well to appreciate the reasons behind the unique ways they are driven to operate.
That’s because the performance review is so one-sided, giving the boss all the power. The boss in the performance review thinks of himself or herself as the evaluator, and doesn’t engage in teamwork with the subordinate. It isn’t, « How are we going to work together as a team? » It’s, « How are you performing for me? » It’s not our joint performance that’s at issue. It’s the employee’s performance that’s a problem.
Instead of stimulating corporate effectiveness, they lead to just-in-case and cover-your-behind activities that reduce the amount of time that could be put to productive use. Instead of promoting directness, honesty and candor, they stimulate inauthentic conversations in which people cast self-interested pursuits as essential company activities.
Keep in mind, of course, that improvement is each individual’s own responsibility. You can only make yourself better. The best you can do for others is to develop a trusting relationship where they can ask for feedback and help when they see the need and feel sufficiently valued to take it. Getting rid of the performance review is a necessary, and affirming, step in that direction.