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Paul J.H. Schoemaker on Doing Performance Reviews

Published: August 20, 2015

Forget Amazon’s Rank-and-Yank: How to Conduct a Constructive Performance Review

Avoid the traps that lead to anger, anxiety and utterly useless reviews.

By Paul J.H. Schoemaker

Want to motivate people to perform better? Frightening them probably isn’t the answer. Focus on the future and don’t argue too much about reasons for good or bad performance in the past. Objective, actionable feedback is the key.

A recent story in The New York Times describes Amazon as a company determined to tell employees clearly and directly where they stand, but also a company whose approach to performance feedback is brutal and intimidating. We can’t assess the company’s methodology here, but Amazon would be far from unique in having difficulty getting performance feedback right. Many companies just aren’t very good at this, which is too bad because it can hurt both the company and the employee. After all, the purpose of the often-dreaded performance review is to help people get better at their current job or the next one.

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