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How to improve performance reviews

Performance reviews are intended to instruct employees where they need improvement, but Samuel Culbert, Professor of Management at the UCLA Anderson School, believes that employers need to reassess and make changes to the mainstream practice.

Culbert believes that the performance review is too often one-sided, with the boss telling the employee how they need to improve. In addition, despite the idea that they're objective, Culbert argues otherwise. "Consider the well-observed fact that when people switch bosses, they often receive sharply different evaluations from the new bosses to whom they now report," Culbert writes in a Wall Street Journal article

Instead, Culbert insists that the practice needs to focus on greater reciprocal accountability between bosses and employees. The former are supposed to guide their employees, helping them to perform their best-quality work, Culbert asserts. 

"The boss's assignment is to guide, coach, tutor, provide oversight and generally do whatever is required to assist a subordinate to perform successfully. That's why I claim that the boss-direct report team should be held jointly accountable for the quality of work the subordinate performs," he explains. 

In addition, Culbert suggests that performance reviews should also be oriented toward the future and creating the most successful partnership. They should be called "previews," says Culbert. These meetings may happen more or less frequently than the performance review. The point is there is no fixed schedule, but rather the meetings happen when either the boss or employee believes that communication and performance can be improved. Performance previews also focus on "problem-solving, not problem-creating," so that both individuals work together in devising plans for working more effectively.

When choosing between candidates, it's important to understand not just what they're previous bosses have said, but the context in which those comments were made. Determining which reviews are valid — and which should be taken with a grain of salt — is one of the critical skills that hiring professionals provide.