Fear and Loathing at the Office: The Annual Performance Review

Most of us don’t like receiving negative feedback, whether it be at the workplace, or in our personal relationships. When faced with criticism, we instinctively raise our fists in an effort to defend ourselves from a bashing and keep our dignity in tact. Giving criticism takes a certain amount of guts, as well. Nobody wants to risk causing discord in a relationship, especially with someone we interact with daily, whether by choice or circumstance. Countless studies confirm these statements, pointing out that both givers and receivers loathe the annual performance review at the workplace.

Why, then, do so many companies still insist on this anxiety-causing process? I think most would agree that some sort of system to track strengths and weaknesses is essential to a thriving business. Writing down what’s working and what’s not provides crucial information on how to keep the business moving in the right direction. Also, how would a manager justify or deny a pay increase, without documented evidence of excellence or poor performance?

At 601am, we’re looking into implementing a new process, and I wanted to dig into what other companies are doing. Here is what I found:

Studies show that 6 to 10% of all Fortune 500 companies have scrapped an annual rating system. Adobe, Kayak, Microsoft, REI and Deloitte are among them. Reasons include not getting a valuable return on the amount of time spent planning and carrying out annual reviews, wanting to get and give feedback more frequently than once a year, and encouraging an open-door environment where managers and employees freely discuss issues whenever they arise and set goals together on a regular basis.

Here are some alternative methods being used by companies and entrepreneurs:

Adobe: Check-ins


Kayak Co-Founder, John English: The 5-Word Performance Review


Deloitte: Recognizing, Seeing and Fueling


Another sign the times are changing is the number of new products designed to facilitate more frequent feedback methods, such as Impraise and Glint. Human Resources companies, such as Namely and BambooHR, have also begun integrating performance management tools into their software that allow for continual dialogue.

In today’s world where social media provides an outlet to give and receive constant feedback on our personal lives and those of others, we may also be feeling the need for the same at the workplace.

We’ll continue to experiment at 601am until we find a process that aligns our reviews with our company values, makes our employees more productive and happy, and allows us all to not fear and loathe the annual review.

601am is a digital agency working with publishers, media companies and brands that act like publishers, providing user experience design, development, marketing and support. Learn more about us at 601am.com or contact us to talk.
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