A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
September 8th, 2012 by William

Dialog of the Deaf−The Performance Review

Have you ever been in the meeting with your boss to discuss your yearly performance review and you find yourself thinking about how this situation sucks and this person has no clue about what you accomplished during the past year, or more importantly how much crap you had to put up with to just get the minimal part of your job accomplished? And you think to yourself: “some of that crap I had to put up with came from this same person who’s now sitting here pontificating about how I didn’t meet expectations.”

While you listen to him, or her, tell you all your faults and shortcomings, so as justify the mediocre (at best) raise that you’ll be getting, you’re day-dreaming about what a good employee you fashion yourself to be, how he doesn’t understand the job, and how this guy has no clue about what you accomplished during the past year.

You find yourself attempting to defend yourself but you distinctly get the impression that your words are in vain, he’s not listening anyway, and you’re wasting your time.

This is why the above description of the performance review process can be called the “Dialogue of the Deaf;” a discussion in which each party is unresponsive to what the other says. The reviewer’s certainly not “really” listening to you and you’re not listening to the reviewer’s rhetoric.

In my book Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw,” I focus an entire chapter to the absurdity of the modern performance review process−the dialog of the deaf.

The euphemism “dialog of the deaf” is an accurate one for the performance review because of the phenomenon of “illusory superiority;”−a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities (the Halo Effect) and to underestimate their negative qualities. This is evident in a variety of areas, including intelligence, performance on tasks and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits. It’s one of many illusions we all have relating to our own capabilities.

However, the typical boss (the reviewer) has a tendency for the flip side, or what’s called the “negativity bias,” i.e., bosses will pay more attention, and give more weight, to negative attributes when assessing others.

This means that if the employee’s tendency is to rate himself in a positive way and the reviewer’s tendency is to rate the employee in a negative way; we have the makings of a standoff of opinions, a dialog of the deaf if you will, and thus unhappiness, demotivation or possibly even confrontation over the performance review.

This is why the performance review process is the most hated and counterproductive ritual in modern business and needs to be eliminated.


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