Motivate Employees By Eliminating Performance Reviews

Say Goodbye to the Appraisal Process

Have you ever come across a company that doesn’t do performance reviews or appraisal process? Have you ever come across anyone on the giving or receiving side who genuinely enjoys the annual performance review process? Have you ever found an HR professional who enjoys managing the whole appraisal process? The answer to all of these questions is likely a resounding “NO.” Most everyone hates all parts of the performance review process. For that reason, they are in no way motivational to the employees they are intended to benefit.

So why do we do appraisal reviews then? If they are a pain to everyone, what is the point? This is where one would likely argue that they are necessary to manage employee performance, to let the employee know where they stand and what needs to be changed or accomplished. They are useful to review their performance. That is all correct. Those things need to be done. Thus we continue on with the tedious and unenjoyable process of performance reviews year after year.

The Negative Impact of Performance Reviews

What if there is a better way, a way that everyone involved doesn’t hate? What if there were a way that didn’t make employees nervous or anxious, a way that wasn’t overly time-consuming for managers and a way that didn’t make HR professionals want to pull their hair out? Employees hate doing self-evaluations, HR hates managing the process, manager don’t want to spend 60 minutes  (or more) for every employee to write one and talk meet with each member of the team.

Appraisal reviews and the process have been around a very long time, giving fuel to the argument that maybe the process is outdated. Work environment have changed and so should the process by which employees are rated or reviewed. Studies have shown that even the best employees are bothered by or respond negatively, whether it be via stress, anxiety or something else, to negative feedback they receive in performance reviews. The book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense by Bob Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer states ““performance rankings can lead to destructive internal competition, which can make it tough to build a culture of knowledge sharing….In addition, there seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy at work, in which a person who receives a poor evaluation does even worse in the subsequent rating period.” There is absolutely no need for us to continue to perpetuate that.

Possible Solutions to Consider

Some companies who have realized that performance reviews do more harm than good have started implementing other ways of motivation and feedback while others have completely reformulated their structure to eliminate the hierarchical structure that is most common in today’s business environment.


Recently Zappos piloted and then adopted a new organizational structure that eliminates managers altogether. Employees work in task-oriented groups to accomplish a greater goal. Everyone is on the same level and everyone works together. With no one to manage you there is no performance review to be given, the team keeps each other accountable and on task.

No Reviews Policy

Many companies have started eliminating the performance review process in favor of real-time feedback. This is done either with a new program or HR internal communication and engagement technology. Real time feedback allows for issues to be addressed before they have a chance to become something debilitating. The consistent feedback allows managers to keep employees on track throughout the year and eliminates a need for a review process because the employee should no exactly where they stand throughout the year, not just and mid-year and year-end review time.

Focus On Autonomy and Employee Personalization

Every employee is different. Because they are individuals, the process of feedback and motivation should too be personalized. Traditional performance reviews that rank employees against their peers are “ill-suited for the kind of thoughtful, reflective conversation that allows people to learn from a performance review.” In most cases, performance goals encourage people to stay the exact same more so than improve.

This video explains some ways that managers can ditch the performance review and take a more personalized approach to performance management and delivering feedback. Using structured and guided conversation techniques can allow managers to take a more constructive approach to executing and annual review and setting goals that don’t render their employees stagnant. Instead, employees are set up for higher levels of satisfaction and engagement
Taking a different approach to performance reviews has the capacity to benefit both your company and your employees which in turn will result in higher success across the board. Different solutions will work for different companies. It is good to take a step back and look at the work environment you are considering, research your options and try a change that will suite that environment best. Be the company that does things right first, you don’t have to wait to follow the crowd. You can use this to your benefit right now.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. John Jorgensen says

    I wish you could/would change the headline to something along the line of eliminate bad performance reviews. Feedback is essential to the workforce and to motivating a large part of the workforce. “No reviews” IMHO is very misleading. Reviews are necessary in an organization, they just have to be structured and administered properly. Just one man’s opinion.

  2. Noma Bruton says

    Outstanding article, Blake. Sin Yu, a Chinese philosopher of the 3rd century once wrote, “The Imperial Rater of Nine Grades seldom rates men according to their merits but always according to his likes and dislikes”. Performance reviews have been viewed as unfair for 1,800 years or more! It is time for a change.

  3. Noma Bruton says

    I agree with your point, John. The good components of reviews should be retained. However, I think we’re going to have to change the language we use. The phrases, “performance reviews”, “performance appraisals”, etc. have such a bad reputation with employees. I’m not sure the words can be rehabilitated. We should, perhaps, call the process by a new name?


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