We Asked for Your Performance Review Horror Stories, and You Answered

As the annual performance appraisal season approaches, we wanted to start a conversation about bad performance review experiences.

We asked, and you certainly answered. Some of these stories had us speechless so we wanted to share them with everyone here.

SEE ALSO: How to Effectively Change Performance Management

The Finalists

“Every three months, I’m required to come up with a list of three new goals. I am required to accomplish them by the next quarterly review. They must be tangible, actionable, challenging goals. We are reprimanded if we don’t meet them. However, there is not a single incentive to do them. My organization has not given merit-based raises for close to a decade. There is no path for growth within the company, and people who have been here for decades still make extraordinarily low salaries. It’s demoralizing and demeaning to be required to accomplish big new goals every quarter, without any hope for reward in exchange. I feel depressed and under-valued the week before and after each review.”

There’s a reason why we at Reflektive call our goals product “Goal Management”, because one of the most important aspects of goal setting is making sure that the goals are consistently being calibrated and assessed. Goals without specific reason have no meaning, and like this story mentions, lead to no productive yield.

“”Spending two years at a company with one of the premium HR and talent management software solutions and NEVER having a single performance review (despite asking).”

The good news is that modern performance management has been steadily gaining popularity in the past few years. The bad news is this entry. It’s possible that this employee’s organization decided to nix the performance review (as many do), but the lack of explanation and reasoning behind the decision clearly left this employee confused and lost. Simply purchasing a performance management system will not solve your people problems. Successful software solutions require communication from the managers and the C-suite.

In this next entry, we can see exactly how meaningless processes can have the opposite effect on engagement and motivation than intended.

“In one of the organizations that I worked in, we were asked to fill out pages of answers to open ended subjective questions. We did. Only to find out later that our manager had already filled in his ratings before he left for a vacation a week before we started writing the reviews. Our painstakingly written answers and response had absolutely no purpose apart from making us feel like we were writing something up. It was the last time I wrote anything more than a single line in my reviews there.”

When employees know that there is nothing to gain from filling out reviews, they have no motivation to write genuine reflections of their work. The last sentence of this entry proves the unfortunate outcome of failing to communicate performance reviews’ purpose to employees beforehand. If you fail to show employees the value, they will become much less likely to put in the effort in the future.

The Winner

Though all of these stories are equally horrifying, we wanted to announce the winning entry for our #MyWorstPerformanceReview contest that was selected by our HR-pro panel of judges.

The winning entry perfectly describes how employees feel during reviews when expectations aren’t set beforehand.

“I went in for my 30 day review all excited about all I’d been able to do in a newly created position. I was told that I hadn’t done anything they had wanted me to do even after he admitted that they hadn’t actually decided what they wanted to measure the position on; they just knew I hadn’t done it. I had been meeting with my supervisor for a 1-on-1 every week and he’d never said anything! I upped my documentation, reporting, project management, asked for more feedback and clearer expectations only to sit down at my 6 month review and get told a similar story – My work was exemplary, but it wasn’t what they wanted. I left that company and the person after me lasted 6 months too.”

Clear expectations and communication empowers employees to do their best work, but 1-on-1 meetings are ineffective if managers are not comfortable sharing feedback with their employees.

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. At Reflektive, we’re on a mission to help managers and employees work better together. Learn more about our people management solutions and request a demo today.

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