Get Rid of The Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing—and Focus on What Really Matters, by Samuel A. Culbert with Lawrence Rout (2010, Business Plus). Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.
Overview: I’ve always detested getting and giving performance reviews (PR). Something about the process made it seem artificial and skewed toward whoever held the upper hand: Management. Professor Samuel Culbert (UCLA) and Lawrence Rout, senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, have helped me finally understand how PR can have unintended consequences for both manager and employee. In an accessible, immensely easy-to-read style with funny asides to the reader, the book feels like Culbert is whispering in your ear, Hey, you know this performance review stuff is such BS…you know it and I know it. In fact, he does say roughly that (I think he leaves out the “hey”). Without mincing words, Culbert presents PR with all its wants and warts. He analyzes the big culprits: Management theory, management control, and Human Resources (who he all but demonizes—overdone in my opinion). However, he demonstrates in the first half of the book why PR remains an ineffective, top down leadership tool. He then spends the rest of the book offering an alternative, the performance preview (PP). This performance preview offers a new collaborative model that holds both manager and employee responsible for success (in fact, Peter Drucker contends in his writings that managers are responsible for employee success or failure). The payoff comes later in the book when Culbert offers “Performance Review Guidelines” (pp. 198-202). Every manager would do very well to read the two conversation guidelines he offers—one question-based conversation for a new or recently assigned employee and the other question-based conversation about progress. Both manager and employee can significantly benefit from such conversations. And any thoughtful manager can benefit from this book.