Performance Reviews Damage Employee Engagement: They Prevent the Truth

March 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

My daughter is a junior in college.  She and I always discuss the quality of the professors and one of her psychology professors was just replaced with an adjunct who is also an independent consultant.  My daughter explained how he seemed so arrogant.  “He continually brags about how knowledgeable and intelligent he is.   He talks too much and doesn’t like tough questions that might make him struggle with an answer.” She explained. “He always has to be right and I hesitate to ask him any questions.  I don’t feel I am learning anything, Dad.”

I encouraged her to speak to him and ask a few questions after class to see if he is open to some challenge.  I tried to influence her to take action.  She refused.  “Dad, he will hurt my grade!”

Our management model is outdated

Our management model is outdated and this so called professor is a great example.  Most leaders still have behaviors left over from the industrial age.  An “omnipotent dictator” does not encourage the truth and therefore does not encourage learning.  Many leaders today have similar behavior of this professor.  They believe they are in a position to know all the answers.  They are reluctant to relinquish this position because it feeds a large ego and that feels good.  It gives them power and makes them feel superior.  Giving up this position is a challenge for us as human beings. This all started in the early 1900’s when Frederick Taylor, a mechanical engineer, described specific actions workers must take to be most efficient in their work.  He insisted they follow his instructions exactly or risk punishment or accountability. 

Are you a Frederick Taylor Neanderthal Leader?

Taylor was able to improve efficiency but with serious unintended consequences.  One of his most important beliefs were “workers should have no opportunity to innovate or make decisions on their own.”  They were uneducated and ignorant about how to do the work. Only he knew the correct way because he did the motion studies to prove it. 

Our world has changed.  Workers need to be engaged and use their brains.  Employee engagement is only created when they are able to use their brains and experiment.  Learning and challenge are two of the most important conditions for creating employee engagement.

My daughter was NOT engaged by this “omnipotent leader.”  He instead shut her down with his unwillingness to create an environment open to the truth.  What kind of leader are you? 

Do you still believe in Performance Reviews and Pay for Performance?

If you believe in the typical performance review as a way to improve organization performance you are using a Taylor management model.  The typical performance review shuts down the truth.  When you know you will receive a grade you will most likely be reluctant to speak the truth just as my daughter was.

Do you believe in pay for performance?  Do you believe that the top performers must receive the most rewards?  You agree with Taylor.  You are sending a message of benevolent omnipotent dictator.  Only you, as the leader, know for sure who the best is.  You probably annually lock yourself into a conference room with other “omnipotent leaders” and evaluate the talent in the organization.  You rank the people and decide from a career perspective “who lives and who dies.” 

We need a different model

We need a model that opens up the truth and allows people to be innovative and experiments.  We need a model that allows for mistakes because we can access the brain power and knowledge or employees while improving their engagement. 

This model will create a strategic competitive advantage because most organizations, and most leaders, still embrace Taylor without even knowing it.  Do you?

The new model can be found at my website: It is called the Complete Performance Improvement Process or CPIP.  It eliminates the grade and ranking.  It separates pay decisions from performance discussions.  It creates trust and truth and enables employees and leaders to remove the barriers that prevent optimum problem solving. 

Don’t be an unconscious and “omnipotent dictator” leader.  Engage employees and accept the truth.  It is the only way for our organizations to survive the increasing global competitive environment.  Help is here.  Check it out.


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