• Blindsiding people with performance issues that you have been sitting on for some time
  • People acting better (Coming in on-time, etc.) right before their performance review
  • Holding people accountable to un-realistic expectations

Here is the horror story of my worst annual performance review…

It was one of my first reviews after leaving college. I was really looking forward to it because I love feedback. I remember the morning of the review being so excited that I was feeling butterflies in my stomach. I sat down at the table with my 3 bosses and for the next half hour and to my surprise they proceeded to rip me a new one. Turns out that they weren’t happy with my performance. They felt like I wasn’t giving 100% because I wasn’t working every night and weekend, like they were. They even went so far as to say they had contemplated letting me go.

Up until this point I had thought I was doing great and excelling at everything that was being asked of me. They had decided to bottle up all of their frustration and explode on me. I was shocked and bewildered. I couldn’t understand why they would sit on this news and not tell me while I still had time to do something about it. This was the most painful review of my entire career and it left permanent scars behind. I felt betrayed and like I couldn’t trust my 3 bosses any longer. What’s worse I don’t think they ever realized the damage that they caused.

So, if you aren’t going to do performance reviews then what should you do instead?

  • Provide feedback to your team member in the moment – Catch them doing something great, reward them right then. If they step across a line, let them know right away. In today’s culture social media has conditioned us to receiving instant feedback, so why fight it.
  • Encourage your team members to provide feedback to each other at regular intervals – If your team is working in an Agile way then meetings like the daily standup (A daily 15 minute meeting to get the team on the same page) and the retrospective (A meeting to discuss how to improve as a team) are a great opportunity to let each other know how they are doing.
  • Adjust team member compensation as needed – If your organization gives annual cost of living increases they apply it for everyone at the appropriate time. It’s pretty insulting then to go into an annual review and be rewarded with a 3% increase for your “exceeds expectations” rating. Also, if a team member deserves a promotion and/or special compensation then process it immediately. Again, tie the reward to the performance rather than to the ceremony of the annual performance review.

Join me in being an Agile Leader and doing away with the very un-agile practice of annual performance reviews. Even if your organization still requires this practice, you can always behave as an Agile Leader would; review in the moment, submitting the annual paperwork simply as a formality. By leading in this way you will be helping your team members to grow at a much faster rate than you would otherwise.



Got an annual performance review horror story? Please share it as a comment.