The Problems with Negative Employee Reviews

AdminEmployee Performance Reviews

There’s no denying the fact that sometimes difficult conversations between managers and employees have to happen. Sprigg believes that before it gets to the stage when a manager needs to inform an employee that its not working out, there are some fundamental processes and practices which can happen to address performance gaps.

The key is to offer opportunities for constructive dialogue and avenues for progression.

The problem lies in the fact that employees may desperately want to improve but their company’s review processes and practices are simply not set up in a way that helps the manager convey the right feedback.

Negative employee reviews, frankly, can usually be avoided if the right practices are in place. The effects of negative or ‘non-constructive feedback’ can be startling.

The Sprigg software is designed to allow for multiple channels of constructive and just-in-time feedback.

A new study suggests a critical job performance evaluation can have a negative effect on any employee, despite an individual’s optimism or the managerial intent of motivation or education.

Dr. Satoris Culbertson, an Assistant Professor of Management at Kansas State University, studied how people view positive or negative feedback. Perhaps not surprisingly, he found that no one, even those motivated to learn, likes negative performance reviews.

Culbertson and collaborators at Eastern Kentucky University and Texas A&M University surveyed more than 200 employees who’d recently completed performance reviews at a large southern university. The research appears in the Journal of Personnel Psychology.

To study the effect of the evaluations, researchers first assessed employees’ goal orientations:

  • Learning goal-oriented people like to learn for the sake of learning — they often pursue challenges despite setbacks;
  • Performance-prove goal-oriented people want to prove that they have competence to perform a job;
  • Performance-avoid goal-oriented people want to avoid looking foolish.

Then the researchers hypothesized that that the two types of performance-oriented people only would be satisfied with performance appraisals in which they received positive feedback because negative feedback would make them look bad.

But the researchers thought that learning goal-oriented employees would be satisfied with an appraisal in which they received negative feedback because these individuals would see it as a learning opportunity.

“Surprisingly, we found that learning-oriented people were just as dissatisfied with an appraisal that had negative feedback as the performance-oriented people were,” Culbertson said.

“Nobody likes to get negative feedback — even those individuals who aren’t trying to prove anything to others, but instead are just trying to learn as much as possible.”

“The research shows that managers need to be careful when giving feedback to employees,” Culbertson said.

Performance appraisals can affect motivation, commitment, and performance, which managers should keep in mind when evaluating employees.

“It is not so much that the performance review needs to be abolished, but we need to fix what is broken,” Culbertson said.

“Instead of limiting ourselves to formal performance appraisals conducted once or twice a year, we need to think about performance management as a system that is linked with the strategy of the entire organization.”

Rather than making a performance review an annual event between a supervisor and employee, employers should consider making it an ongoing process.

“We can actually make the most out of the system,” Culbertson said. “But if we are only going to have once-a-year evaluations, we shouldn’t expect it to work.”