Abolishing Performance Reviews: The Case For And Against

Scrap Appraisals Or Fix Them?

It's an debate that never goes away: whether to scrap performance reviews or fix them. Respected experts like Peter Scholtes, W.E. Deming, and authors Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins have come down firmly on the abolition side.

But it's not that simple. In this section we'll look at the cases being made for the abolishing of performance appraisals, including references to those that have taken that side.

Before we do that, though, here are some important points.

Four Things To Consider About Abolishing Performance Appraisals

  1. Those in favor of abolishing the hated ANNUAL reviews are talking about exactly that - systems where the bulk of communication about performance happens in those annual reviews. They look at the common practice, also, of considering STANDALONE reviews, rather than reviews that are part of a well executived management strategy to help everyone produce.
  2. It's true that stand alone, dangling reviews probably do more harm than good. HOWEVER, when included in a performance management approach that stresses performance planning, ongoing communication all year, working WITH employees to remove barriers to performance, etc., all of a sudden the value jumps.
  3. Scrapping reviews begs the question: "What to do instead", and here it becomes hairy. We have know for a good 40 years how to make reviews work. It's part of good management, and basically the abolitionists suggest replacing the reviews with ongoing communication. We knew that 40 years ago. The problem isn't to get rid of the process, but to do it properly, integrated with all the practices we know about good management.
  4. The review process isn't going away. In fact, there's been very little uptake on the part of companies to get rid of them. Perhaps because they are stuck, or perhaps they have some GOOD reasons not to get rid of them. There is a point where one has to realize that continuing to tell executives to scrap performance appraisals has to take into account that they aren't doing it. So, given that, does it make more sense to get across the idea that you do it properly.

Decide For Yourself By Asking The RIght Questions

Often asking the right questions gives us the right answers, so as you review the references below here are some questions to ask:

  • Assume executives have some GOOD reasons for keeping their review processes? What do you think they are? Some may valid.
  • Is there utility in having an annual review, in fact a summative review, provided there's been good communication all year? Is there good reason for doing this?
  • Are those in favor of scrapping reviews in fact, playing a game of semantics, because their suggestions about what to replace it with resemble best practices we've know about for decades, and have been mapped out on this site?


Hints, Tips and Advice On What To Do When You Recieve a Bad, Negative Employee Review

Alternatives to Performance Appraisals

By Cynthia Measom - Brief overview of peer reviews, performance PREVIEWS, self-reviews, and coaching as alternatives to the traditional performance reviews. Viewed 758 Times )

Get Rid of the Performance Review! Use Performance Previews Instead

By SAMUEL A. CULBERT - An insightful article on the once a year performance appraisal and its failures, but it goes beyond the usual scrap it philosophy by suggesting an alternative - PERFORMANCE PREVIEWS. Viewed 755 Times )

Performance Appraisals: A Failed Attempt At Options For Replacing Appraisals

By EQ - Part three, and weak. That's the problem with coming up with replacements for reviews. It's not so easy. Excerpt: Thinking drives behavior. Therefore, to begin to answer the question the subsequent column explored the thinking that underlies appraisals and their alternatives. Some might label the beliefs that underlie appraisals as Theory X, i.e., that employees will only do what they have to do, have little interest in learning, and are externally motivated. Appraisal abolishers might label their own thinking as Theory Y, i.e., that employees are primarily eager to contribute, want to learn, and are internally motivated. Assumptions that different lead to different management behaviors. Viewed 550 Times )

Performance Appraisals: Assumptions To Prepare For Replacing Performance Reviews

By EQ - Part 2, where the author presents a number of assumptions, before introducing his solution to replacing performance appraisals. Viewed 598 Times )

Abolish performance appraisals - and do some different things instead

By Andy Lippok - A cut above the usually "let's abolish it" because it attempts to offer some new assumptions. Sadly, it purports to be based on neuroscience with IMO is a distraction Viewed 630 Times )

Why Corporate Leaders Won't Abolish Performance Review

By Samuel Culbert - Cuthbert explains, with remarkable cynical bullshit pop psych. why leaders won't get rid of performance appraisals. Just goes to show that professors are flawed too. Read the article, and decide WHO has the EGO. Viewed 720 Times )

Should performance appraisals be abolished?

By Brian Kreissl - For many employers, it's that dreaded time of year once again - time to do performance reviews. Few managers or employees look forward to this often painful process. If not done properly, performance reviews can lead to disengagement, poor morale, allegations of favouritism, increased turnover and even legal action. Therefore, there's little wonder some experts are starting to call for the outright abolition of performance reviews. However, I wouldn't necessarily go that far. When handled correctly, performance appraisals can provide meaningful feedback, communicate expectations, motivate employees, facilitate employee development and career planning, and assist employees in attaining individual and organizational goals and objectives. Viewed 625 Times )

Adobe Abolishes Performance Review, Or Did They?

By Julie Cook Ramirez - Story about Adobe eliminating their performance review system, but they actually just loosened the formality of it. So, yes, they eliminated the lock step annual review. In fact, the moved from reviews to managing performance, and we know that's the way to go. Viewed 742 Times )

Performance Appraisals: Why They Need To Be Scrapped

By EQ - No solutions here. But a decent analysis of what appraisals are supposed to accomplish. There's a second and third part that try to provide those solutions (we link to them in this section). Viewed 640 Times )

Are the BBC right to scrap appraisals?

By Marielena Sabatier - The BBC is a recent organization that's decided to get rid of the formal once a year appraisals and replace them with more regular ongoing feedback all year. Sensible approach. Viewed 408 Times )

Abolishing the Performance Appraisal: Why Would We Want to do That?

By Josh Bersin - Bersin errs in this article, but it's a common mistake. In the article he switches back and forth between talking about performance MANAGEMENT, and performance APPRAISAL, talking about them as if they are the same thing. This propagation of a myth is almost tragic, because one works, the other doesn't. Viewed 703 Times )

Abolish the Annual Performance Review to Boost Employee Engagement

By Tim Ryan - A plea to get rid of reviews to improve employee engagement, but here's the thing. In fact, one of the PRIME variables that contributes to employee engagement is having a sense of the meaning or work, and having clear targets, which is the major component of performance MANAGEMENT. In fact a review process part of a management process INCREASES employee engagement. Viewed 708 Times )

Total Quality or Performance Appraisal: Choose One

By Peter R. Scholtes - Scholtes makes the case that performance appraisals get in the way of quality improvement. But it's possible to modify the review process to support problem-solving, and removing system barriers to better productivity, if we start thinking of working and talking WITH rather than TO. Viewed 661 Times )

| Library Home Page |
Pages Updated On: 6-Sep-2016 - 15:26:57

We can help you with the various parts of a performance management system with our miniguides on each component.

Instantly downloadable and built to save you time.

There's even help for employees on how to navigate the process.

Click the image below to view the entire catalog.

Viiew all our performance review tools for managers and employees

About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.


Robert Bacal

Bacal's Books
About The Company
About Our Performance Management Philosophy
Privacy Policy

Our Related Websites

Leadership Resource Center
Upgrade your understanding of modern leadership in a complex world. Stay current.

The Planning Resource Center

From strategic planning for businesses, small and large, right through to financial planning for millennials, stay current with the latest thoughts and actions on planning.

Bacal & Associates Store
Free and paid guides, books, and documents on business, management and more.

We Believe

  • Performance management and appraisal MUST be a partnership between manager and employee where BOTH benefit.
  • Performance management can be the lever for improved employee engagement.
  • The review process is the LEAST important part of performance management
  • If managers aren't managing employee performance, why are they there?

Get in Touch

  • Phone:
    (613) 764-0241
  • Email: ceo@work911.com
  • Address:

  • Bacal & Associates
  • 722 St. Isidore Rd.
  • Casselman
  • Ontario
  • Canada, K0A 1M0