RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This week, we're talking about managers and managing. Today, we talk to a man who doesn't mince words when it comes to his thoughts on that yearly or twice yearly ritual called the performance review.
Business Professor Samuel Culbert wrote a book called "Get Rid of the Performance Review!" He joined us in our studios in Los Angeles to talk about that book and his theories.
Thank you very much for joining us.
Professor SAMUEL CULBERT (Anderson School of Management, University of California Los Angeles; Author): Nice to be here.
MONTAGNE: Now, this book originated in an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago, and it generated enormous response, both agreeing with you and also disagreeing with your point. So start off by telling us why you think performance reviews ought to just disappear.
Prof. CULBERT: Well, there's just two small reasons: first, they're dishonest and fraudulent, and second, they're just plain bad management.
MONTAGNE: Well, there you go. All right.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Prof. CULBERT: The managers, in the service of saying they're evaluating performance, create the circumstances for people to be their worst. They're not going to get - once you start with performance reviews, you're not going to hear what people really think. You're not going to hear them talk about what's wrong and going wrong. They're not going to talk about results they have doubts about. They're going to talk about all their successes. It becomes total baloney.
MONTAGNE: When you say makes for bad management, though, you've written that there are two agendas in a performance review, and that, in a way, make people speak at cross purposes.
Prof. CULBERT: That's right. They start off in a clash. The boss already has heard with his boss: What do you want to pay the guy, or the woman? So they come up with a review that's all backwards. It's just to tell the employee what he or she needs to do to become more effective.
The employee walks in thinking she or he has done a wonderful job and wants to get credit. They've got a few things at stake, like pay, career, promotion. The employee wants to be seen as a positive. They want to have known that their real talents and contributions were seen and recognized.
MONTAGNE: Well, it would seem, though, that that doesn't necessarily mean get rid of the performance review. It may mean tweak it in certain ways. There are certainly performance reviews out there now that are based on what someone might call, objectively, metrics. I've seen examples where nurses are judged on rates of infection in their unit. Could not many jobs have those sorts of specifics?
Prof. CULBERT: Some jobs, you can score the production. That's a different metric. We're scoring production. But that's not all somebody does. You could have a sales person who sells a lot of product, and in the process, gives the company a bad reputation.
Once you set up the metrics, that's the only focus for the employee. The problem with performance reviews is that the metric that counts most for the employee is the boss's opinion. So the employee starts doing what he or she thinks is going to score in the boss's mind, and not even talk about what he or she believes is necessary for the company to get the results that really count.
MONTAGNE: Samuel Culbert is professor of the Anderson School of Management at the University of California Los Angeles. His new book is "Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing and Focus on What Really Matters."
Thank you very much for joining us.
Prof. CULBERT: Oh, really my pleasure. Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: And if you love performance reviews or hate them or have any other opinions about them at all, let us know at npr.org.
Tomorrow, we talk about how managers can amplify the talent around them, and it does not involve performance reviews.
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