The end of the annual performance review
THE DREADED YEARLY PERFORMANCE REVIEW. Nobody likes them, and
nearly everyone hates them. Yet everybody is told to do them, year after year.
TIM T WIGG is the
president of Bent Ericksen &
Associates and REBECCA
BOARTFIELD is an HR
compliance consultant. For
more than 30 years, the
company has been a
leading authority in human
resources and personnel
issues, helping dentists
successfully deal with
ever-changing and complex
labor laws. To receive a
complimentary copy of the
newsletter or to learn more,
call (800) 679-2760 or visit
Nothing should be saved up and nothing should be a surprise. When something is noticed about an employee’s
performance today, either good or bad, it should be communicated to the employee. We recommend praising in
public, and critiquing in private.
A better and more contemporary future can be accomplished
through goal setting. Why goals? First, they are a proven way
to support employee accountability. Second, goals will enlist
and engage employees in contributing to the success of the
practice. When done right, goal setting and monitoring create
a constructive dialogue about the most important behaviors
that are tied to the practice’s most desired results.
Sometimes employers must move toward a more formal
system of documenting and addressing problems. By using
an employee counseling document, doctors can address
problems at the same time they establish documentation.
This type of documentation should:
• state the reason for the counseling in specific, factual,
scrupulously honest, and concise terms;
• outline the specific nature of the discipline;
• describe the corrective action expected of the employee
in specific, measurable terms;
• warn of potential consequences if the employee fails to
• include signatures and dates from all parties involved.
Incorporating this kind of documentation process into
the performance management picture is nothing new. The
difference now is that without a performance evaluation
form, there is less chance that the employer has other contradictory documentation on file to negate the effectiveness
of this documentation.
It’s time to let go of the age-old performance review system
and move on. This is not an argument for doing nothing.
This is about replacing the old with something new, better,
and more in line with the business as a whole. The bonus
is that it may put doctors in a stronger position should
they find themselves having to defend their actions.
The most common argument in favor of annual performance reviews is that they represent documentation that
can be used to help defend an employer’s actions, mostly
in the case of terminations. The fine print, however, is that
performance reviews must be done well. Unfortunately, it’s
the “done well” part that can be the problem.
Negatively critiquing an employee, even when justified,
is hard, especially when you have to work side by side. This
prevents reviews from being honest and accurately reflecting an employee’s performance. It also prevents performance reviews from accomplishing their intended purpose,
namely, to improve performance.
Fast forward to a lawsuit and the plaintiff’s attorney
subpoenas all documentation, which includes performance
reviews. The doctor, of course, contends that the employee
was fired for performance. What will the plaintiff ’s attorney
do with a performance review in hand that doesn’t accurately reflect the employee’s performance and effectively
minimizes the poor performing aspects?
Adding to that, consider these studies:
• 87% of employees found traditional performance reviews
to be ineffective; 94% of chief executives agreed.
• 30% of performance reviews ended up in decreased employee performance.
• 58% of bosses said they don’t think performance reviews
are an effective use of time.
Finally, consider this. In an article titled “ The Legal Case for
Eliminating Performance Reviews” by Judith Droz Keyes, Esq.,
the author states, “In writing this article, I did a simple word
search for ‘performance evaluation’ or ‘performance review’
in published decisions only in the federal and state courts in
California and only for a six-month period. There were 40 deci-
sions where the performance review was cited by the court as
a material fact in the case. In all but one of the cases, the review
was cited not by the employer to support its defense but by
the plaintiff-employee to provide his or her claim.”
The bottom line is, your performance evaluation system
is most likely not helping or protecting you. Add to that the
fact that generations Y and Z represent the majority of today’s
workers, and they expect instant feedback, data, and informa-
tion. Waiting a year to provide an evaluation makes no sense.