Unfair Performance Reviews Prompt Most Employees to Consider Quitting

Performance reviews are almost universally dreaded, especially if done on an annual basis. Managers and employees alike often find them anxiety-inducing and frustrating, as so much hinges on one conversation. Employees know their careers (including promotions and/or pay raises) depend on the accuracy of their performance reviews, and can react poorly if the review is perceived inaccurate. Side note: this is not a far-fetched scenario; trying to summarize a year’s worth of feedback into an hour-long meeting is a challenge, and putting the responsibility of remembering everything a particular employee has done over the course of 12 months in the hands of the manager is a tall order.

In a recent survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers, Reflektive discovered just how damaging inaccurate performance reviews can be to an employer’s retention rates. A whopping 85% of people surveyed admitted they would at least consider leaving their company due to an unfair or inaccurate performance review, with half reporting they were “very likely” or “extremely likely” to do so. A quarter of those surveyed admitted feeling they were passed over for promotion due to inaccuracies or bias in performance reviews. 

Samples of Performance Reviews Gone Wrong

What are the consequences of inaccurate performance reviews? Below are three examples of performance reviews gone horribly wrong. While fictional, they represent the opinions of 21 percent of survey respondents, who declared they would quit by “going out in a blaze of glory.”

Example 1: Terrance has worked for the same manufacturing company for ten years, and believes he is due for a promotion. However, when he sat through his latest performance review, he was shocked to hear his supervisor list off a series of mistakes on a project he completed six months prior, even though the project debrief turned up only positive feedback. The promotion went to a younger worker, and Terrance is sure favoritism was a factor. Enraged, Terrance leaves the company by posting an “I Quit” video on social media, implying the company practices ageism. The video quickly goes viral, and the company’s employer brand takes a major hit. 

Example 2: Paul’s last performance review was a disaster, focusing only on the last two months of work and glossing over the rest of the year. Pauls’ performance in the early part of the year was stellar, but a series of personal crises have definitely affected his recent work. Paul is working hard to resolve his personal issues, and feels his previous hard work counted for nothing. In anger, he quits, and badmouths the company to anyone who will listen.

Example 3: Clare’s performance review was crushingly bad — much worse than she’d imagined. She spent much of the last six months unsuccessfully trying to secure feedback concerning a difficult project, and was taken to task over the project’s delays during her annual review. Clare, taking the most extreme action out of our three hypothetical examples of performance reviews, quits and reveals sensitive company secrets to her next employer. 

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These samples of performance reviews gone wrong might sound like the sort of scary stories HR professionals tell around campfires, but Reflektive’s survey revealed employees who feel wronged or slighted by performance reviews are capable of such acts. Of the 21% planning to go out in a blaze of glory:

  • 78% said they planned to create an “I Quit” video
  • 18% planned on badmouthing the company, coworkers, or the boss after quitting
  • 12% said they planned to expose company secrets

To be fair, these employees were angry, and what a person says they’ll do when they’re angry doesn’t necessarily reflect what they’ll actually do. But that isn’t the point. The point is 21% of 1,000 workers are at least thinking of causing damage to their companies, all because of what they perceived to be inaccurate performance reviews. 

Increasing Performance Review Accuracy

The annual review, as a business tool, is painfully flawed. Microsoft changed its entire approach to performance reviews when it realized this. Employees crave accurate, helpful feedback, and they don’t just want it delivered once a year; they want monthly, weekly, and even daily feedback.

Increasing feedback frequency eliminates many of the complaints employees have about performance reviews. Because less time has passed between reviews, managers and employees alike have a clearer memory of what happened when. Regular meetings also improve manager-employee relationships and make performance reviews more human: 45% of employees surveyed revealed they value regular reviews for the chance to spend meaningful facetime with managers. 

Accurate, growth-oriented feedback should be a priority during performance reviews. Using performance management software to track employee progress and feedback gives both manager and employee a fair, accurate, and data-based picture of employee performance, reducing the risk of bias and inaccuracies.

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