Every year, American workers steel themselves for the dreaded performance review and sometimes sabotage themselves in the process. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Many U.S. companies conduct annual performance reviews, giving workers and management a once-a-year chance to discuss how everyone might do their jobs a little bit better. As a management tool, this is not great. The truth is, for all its ubiquity in modern business culture, the long gaps between review periods make this a terrible model for professional feedback. Small issues get blown up out of proportion in the days before a review period, while bigger problems can fade.
Employees can stay in the dark about their bad habits for months at a time, which simultaneously hurts their careers and denies their employer valuable continuous feedback.
This is a bad model, made worse by the tendency of some companies to rely on it as a cost-cutting measure. During the 2008 recession law firms on Wall Street flooded the market with newly unemployed lawyers, all let go after their annual performance reviews suddenly turned sour. More recently, after missing sales goals on its Model 3 by nearly 84 percent in October, Tesla fired hundreds of employees for poor reviews despite, those employees argue, sterling reviews up until last fall.
With that hanging over their heads, many workers spend all year anxious about their annual performance review. At best it's a chance for a pat on the head or maybe a bit of a raise. At worst, it's when you get your pink slip.
Fortunately, whether you're a manager or an employee, there are ways to improve this system.