Death to Performance Reviews – Again

Posted by Richard Moran.


The death of performance reviews may be highly exaggerated. When big organizations like Accenture proclaimed the elimination of performance reviews in that organization, a collective sigh of relief could be heard around the world. Yay! We thought there would be no more of the charade of managers trying to guess what we really contributed to the organization. No more stress, we thought, about the entire review process and whether or not we would be placed on double secret probation. The elimination of the review process was, we thought, the beginning of a sea change in employee engagement.

Alas, it was not to be. Like the game of Whac-a-Mole, performance reviews continue to pop up in some organizations. In other organizations, they never went away.

HR professionals roll their eyes at the thought of eliminating reviews. Reviews can protect the organization from litigation. Yet, most HR people I know dread the entire process. Butthead managers still hold onto reviews as a way to fire people and keep them worried about job security.  Analysts who understand bell curves continue to work on spreadsheets to determine who is contributing and who is not.  But cutting annual performance reviews out of the organizational psyche continues to make a ton of sense. It makes business sense and, why do something year after year that everyone hates?

The business case for killing performance reviews requires only back of the envelope analysis. It is called simple arithmetic. Take people’s salaries and come up with an hourly rate. Then, multiply the number of hours that the organization spends on the review process. The answer will be a reason to kill the process.  In many organizations, the time devoted to performance reviews shuts down the plant. Nothing happens while people wait to be evaluated at the expense of customers and others.

What is maybe more important than the business case is the logic and emotion associated with the review. Why continue a practice that no one likes, is seen as an annual ritual of pain, and may or may not be effective? A culture that continues to do things that no one wants to do is a culture that needs to ask hard questions like, “Why are we doing this?” If the answer is truthful the culture can change.   The annual review is a prime target.

This is not to say that feedback is not a good thing. We should all look for some sort of feedback every day. The best source of feedback is our own inner self. People generally know how they perform and what should be improved. Feedback is still critically important.

We should ask others for feedback too, but that doesn’t have to be in a formal review situation. The best feedback is usually in the hallway after a presentation or in the car on the way home from a sales call or after a meeting. Listen to that feedback and add your own inner analysis and you will be a better performer.

No matter the case, I know performance reviews are not dead. In most organizations they are very much alive and well so I have a suggestion. Instead of a painful process, every one should complete a 3×5 card with one question on it: How did you make this place better?

The answers might be a pleasant surprise to everyone.

Can We Trust H.R.? Can We Trust Anyone?

Posted by Richard Moran.


“You know you’re in trouble when you get called into the boss’s office and someone from H.R. is already there.”

“The only thing the H.R. people care about is diversity training.”

“The H.R. police were all at the sales kick-off meeting in Vegas. It was no fun.”

“Every memo from H.R. basically says NO! I am going to start calling everyone in H.R. Dr. No.”

Comments like these are real ones that I have heard recently regarding the Human Resource professional. The comments are not so good for the perception of the people who are there to create a thriving workplace.  In addition, the way the movies and TV shows portray the H.R. rep is always the clueless, goofy woman (always a woman) who is heard saying, “you know the ruuuuules!”

Now a recent article in TechCrunch by Danny Chrichton documents the rise and fall of H.R. people.

But before we throw the H.R. people under the bus, let’s look more closely at the role and the complexity the people in that role face.  First, it’s not just H.R. people. The Edelman Trust Barometer, has found that a majority of workers don’t trust their company’s leadership. Worse, less than a quarter believe that their CEO is ethical. As trust has declined, the role of H.R. has grown more complicated.

The employee manual always exists on the credenza or in the bottom drawer but surely does not cover all the issues of the workplace. Show me a manual with #metoo in it. Show me a manual that addresses playing hooky when the local team wins the championship. Yet, H.R. is the interpreter of all acceptable or not acceptable behaviors.

The big question that employees and H.R. wrestles with is: Is H.R. an advocate for employees and the builder of a healthy and happy culture or, are they there to keep the Company out of legal hot water? An effective H.R. person is probably both but, based on the surveys, employees are of the belief that H.R. is there to protect management. The result is that now people are turning to alternatives and not going to H.R. at all. Alternatives in the form of a bevy of apps now allow employees to protect themselves like never before. And lots of places, especially the world of small companies have not H.R. at all. The apps can really help.

Maybe we are asking too much of H.R. Maybe with the right set of tools and a management team that does the right thing and can be trusted, the perception will change. But the workplace continues to evolve quickly and only the best organizations and H.R. people will evolve with it.

Can we trust H.R.? The answer to the question should be yes and I hope it is in your workplace. Can we trust leadership? It would be a lot easier if some of them would stop doing stupid things.

Is Cursing at Work Now OK?

Posted by Richard Moran.

Not Safe For Work is a standard warning we all receive. Even when we plead to be dropped from a dirty joke distribution list, the bad jokes never end. Besides off-color jokes, the NSFW label sometimes announces the delivery of a rant full of expletives about a politician or a wrong that is occurring somewhere in the world. There is not a shortage of rants or wrongs or expletives. But now, when it comes to those rants full of curses, I am wondering what is safe for work and whether NSFW even matters.

Lately, I’ve heard major network announcers use an expletive that precedes the word “hole” or “house”, depending on what was heard. Some pundits seem to say the words with glee. Other words that my mother would call curses have crept into daily language. Bob Sutton, a professor at Stanford developed an entire movement centered on a curse word. When he wrote, “The No A—hole Rule”, it was adopted by organizations large and small. We all know what the concept means.  Are these words offensive? Depends on who you ask.

What are the new rules when it comes to curse words? (For example, I am editing out curses so that LinkedIn will print this post.) If a network announcer can use that word on television, why can’t I use it in the conference room? Sometimes a curse can really save a lot of time when it comes to language.

If everyone else on the team curses, does that make it ok? What if the customer curses, should we curse back? Are there appropriate substitutes for curses that still convey the sentiment, like “Shut the front door!” What if the name of the entire company is based on a thinly veiled curse?

Like almost everything in the workplace, the definition of acceptable language is changing. What is acceptable can be confusing and what was a curse ten years ago is now part of everyday business banter. NSFW might really describe what is safe for work today. The best rule is still the safe rule, pretend your Mom is in the room and use good judgment before you release the F-bombs. If your Mom curses like a sailor, you might want to pick another relative.