Here’s Why We All Hate the Annual Performance Review

Why does the traditional annual performance review continue to fail as both a performance measurement and management device?

There are a litany of reasons but by far the greatest, most overriding reason for the failure of the annual review to accomplish stated goals is this:

It’s stressful!

Or, as Steve Roesler put it in his All Things Workplace blog:

Managers add stress to their lives by postponing important conversations and letting them build up until their heads start to feel like a balloon waiting to burst. Or, we try to submerge those thoughts until we discover that they tend to pop out in strange and often harmful ways. How many times have we received–or given–a terse comment that really was the result of some long- unspoken feeling?”

If that doesn’t resonate with you, how about this assessment of performance assessments from Denis Wilson in Fast Company:

Let’s cut to the chase: If the only feedback your employees get from you is in the form of a six- or 12-month performance review, it’s time to change your approach to feedback. Dropping bombs on employees once or twice a year only serves to build up pressure and make feedback sessions feel like indictments. And most importantly, it does little to alter behavior and improve performance and productivity, which should be your goal.”

5 reasons why the annual review is stressful

Why is the annual review stressful?

That’s easy, though the list is quite long. Below are just five of the top drivers of stress in the annual performance appraisal process:

  1. Managers don’t want to do it.
  2. Employees don’t want to receive it.
  3. HR dreads the nagging involved to get it done.
  4. The results are notoriously skewed, biased, or flat-out wrong.
  5. A once-a-year check-in on progress, goals, behaviors and outcomes is less than useless.

Busting the myths of performance management

Some would call these five statements my opinion. I don’t. I’ve read too much research and interacted with too many professionals up and down the chain.

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These statements are fact – for the traditional annual review process, anyway.

But you can bust the myths of performance management (seven of them by Dr. Pietro Micheli’s count, and he’s a professor at Warwick Business School). How? It’s fairly simple. Put the performance review into everyone’s hands, every day with strategic, social employee recognition.

What do you hate the most about the annual review process?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


3 Comments on “Here’s Why We All Hate the Annual Performance Review

  1. There is a constant outcry that performance management is broken, but the problem is too complex for HR alone to fix. The biggest hurdle to overcome is how intricately pay is woven into the tapestry of performance. The key is to gain enough management support (meaning CEO top down emphasis) to remove archaic pay for performance ideas without unraveling the whole system. When there is no need for an annual pay raise system then the annual reviews can be trimmed as well.

  2. i agree reviews don’t work but there is an even more important reason why. just saying the words’ i want to give you some feedback’ creates a threat response in the brain. when people feel threatened their reasoning brain largely shuts down. also the whole process is set up to challenges the employees sense of self work. all the certainty, options and reputation are with the manager. and even the manage may feel their sense of connection with the employee is damaged by the process. so how can a review help anyone? we need to develop a more brain savvy form of managing performance. one that recognises how the brain responds not works against it.

  3. Reviews will never work until we realise that feedback is still (in some people’s minds) seen as “here we go, time for the annual criticism again!!)… so think “Feed-forward” instead. Staff want to know where they are heading, how they will get there, how the organisation will support them. We can’t change the past, but we can affect & effect the future.

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