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Performance Reviews Get Poor Reviews

Survey shows majority of workers think such appraisals accomplish little.
Lisa YoonFebruary 12, 2003

When it comes to performance reviews, 52 percent of employees agree on one thing: they do nothing to actually help their on-the-job performance.

That’s according to a new survey by business writer Gene C. Mage, who writes the syndicated column “Making It Work.”

The report, based on a nationwide survey conducted this month among 1,032 adults 18 and over, also found that 25- to 34-year-old workers take reviews more seriously than older workers.

The perceived value of performance appraisals also varies according to education level and ethnicity, according to the study. For instance, black respondents were four times more likely than their white or Hispanic counterparts to believe performance appraisals have a negative effect on their performance in the survey.

According to survey author Mage, the results suggest a fundamental problem with the way performance reviews are conducted: i.e. they’re used mainly as an evaluation tool. Instead, says Mage, performance reviews should also be seen as a chance to talk proactively about how employees can improve their skills and performance in the future.

Mage, who also authored the book Managing for High Performance, says the survey’s findings are consistent with his own observations at companies over the past five years.

“In too many organizations, performance reviews are treated as a ‘feed the corporate beast exercise’,” Mage explained. “Managers are expected to complete annual reviews to calculate salary increases or meet human resource department paperwork requirements, but are seldom given the time and tools to make reviews useful for changing employee behaviors. Reviews become just one more item on an overworked manager’s to-do list.”

CFOs On the Move

United States Steel Corp. promoted CFO John Surma Jr. to president effective March 1, lightening the load of Thomas Usher, who will continue as chairman and chief executive.

SVP and treasurer Gretchen Haggerty will replace Surma as CFO. Surma has been CFO of the second largest U.S. steelmaker since January 2002. He’s also vice chairman.

Surma takes over at a busy time for U.S. Steel. For starters, the company is in the middle of a bidding war with AK Steel Holding Co. for the assets of bankrupt National Steel Corp. The company’s $750 million bid was rejected last week after AK Steel came up $925 million.

The company is also in talks with United Steelworkers of America on a new labor contract covering workers at National’s plants, as well as its own.

Once the talks are complete, the company plans to resubmit its bid for National.

This is far cry from the way things were done back in founder Andrew Carnegie’s day: In Carnegie, a new bio of the original man of steel, author Peter Krass writes that Carnegie’s favorite negotiating tactic was the opposite of a strike: the lockout — the my-way-or-the-highway tactic in which employers withheld employment until workers came around to seeing the value of more work and less pay. Krass also estimates that fatal accidents at Carnegie’s plants made up about one-fifth of all male deaths in Pittsburgh in the 1880s. Carnegie’s big worry regarding the fatalities? Production slowdowns. Nice.

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