The reviews are in — and performance reviews aren’t popular.

Only 29% of employees “strongly agree” that their performance reviews in the workplace are fair, and even fewer — just 14% — say they’re inspired to do better thanks to their feedback, according to a recent study from Gallup.

Wharton School of Business professor Peter Cappelli says that part of the problem is that performance reviews do not deliver feedback in regular, consistent intervals. “With their heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, [performance reviews] hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future,” Cappelli wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “In contrast, regular conversations about performance and development change the focus to building the workforce your organization needs to be competitive both today and years from now.”

Many companies are waking up to this reality — up to one-third of US companies, including Deloitte, Proctor & Gamble, and General Electric, are abandoning the practice, Capelli notes — with the consensus being performance reviews can undercut an employee’s capacity to make progress.

What’s more, experts say many managers rush to file their performance reviews without necessary thoroughness.”The problem is that managers don’t get rewarded for doing timely performance reviews,” notes Deborah Searcy, a professor of organizational behavior at Florida Atlantic University. “They tend to get done at the last minute, right before the deadline, and even the manager doesn’t put out the best product. They’re rushing to get through them.”


Still, many of us get performance reviews — and they’re not always favorable. If you’re slammed with an unpleasant performance review from your manager, experts agree that you’re well within your rights to raise concerns with your boss — politely — about his or her feedback.

Managers “should be talking to their employees all the time about how things are going,” Cappelli suggests. If that doesn’t happen, it’s perfectly fair for an employee to ask his or her manager to please raise feedback or criticisms earlier in the future.

You should also have a conversation with your manager, but come equipped with the facts. “You need data to support your case,” Searcy agrees, referring to specific examples of how and why your performance exceeded what was written in the review. You should also be mindful that phenomena like the recency effect — the tendency of humans (bosses included) to recall your most recent actions first — can influence their judgment as they assemble a performance review.

But if all that fails, it might be worth asking HR to get involved in the discussion between you and your boss, and frame it from the perspective of wanting to better understand the performance review metrics your company uses. Generally, HR generates the metrics that measure employees’ performance in reviews, not managers themselves.

“HR departments are not necessarily updating their review metrics every year,” Searcy notes. “If they have a five year old performance review and you’re in [an evolving job like] social media,” their criteria may no longer be the right fit for the job.