There’s a dirty little secret about performance reviews, which is this: most of them are useless. Managers dread them because they’re tedious and time-consuming and potentially volatile. Employees hate them because all too often a performance review is the only objective data point informing compensation and bonus. Rarely in my experience does a performance review actually accomplish its primary goal of encouraging superior performance or correcting unproductive behavior.
Imagine you’re a hungry young company trying to squeeze into a crowded marketplace. How do you unseat the entrenched competition? You’ll probably start by leveraging the skeleton staff of entrepreneurial generalists that you’re paying with stock options and pizza. You’ll ask them to work late hours and take on the sorts of projects which your competitors wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole: clients they’ve fired, projects they’ve shelved as too ambitious, campaigns that have bounced around between agencies because no one’s willing to tell the client that the idea’s idiotic.
(I’m looking at you, New York-based wireless startup named after a sitcom catchphrase.)