Annual Job Review Is 'Total Baloney,' Expert Says Employee performance reviews should be eliminated, according to Samuel Culbert: "First, they're dishonest and fraudulent. And second, they're just plain bad management." The UCLA business professor has written a new book expanding on that view.

Annual Job Review Is 'Total Baloney,' Expert Says

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Thank you very much for joining us.

SAMUEL CULBERT: 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.

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.


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.

CULBERT: 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?

CULBERT: 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: Thank you very much for joining us.

CULBERT: Oh, really my pleasure. Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tomorrow, we talk about how managers can amplify the talent around them, and it does not involve performance reviews.

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