Three Reasons I Hate Quarterly Reviews

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Leadership and Management | 0 comments

I hate quarterly reviews. And not because they’re a waste of time. They’re actually mission-critical. But there are three distinct reasons why this practise is completely misunderstood and mishandled. In my professional life, since the time I got my first job at 16 until starting Hölmetrics, every single performance review I’ve ever had was a single-sided review of my performance through the lens of my direct supervisor. Like the weekly sermons I have absorbed since I was a child, I don’t remember any of them. I just remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach as I agonized over one more lightbox session with the x-ray of my recent performance. Not a single time have I ever been asked about what I thought of my supervisor’s performance as a supervisor. Of course not. Why would that feedback be important?

I know, for a fact, that there are supervisors who do quarterly reviews incredibly well. I know for a fact that there are many tools on the market that can help create fantastic quarterly review processes and experiences, but I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing them personally. So yes, this is one part rant session, but three parts sound warning to all of us that lead, that this practise must stop, or at least change, if we are to lead healthy, life-giving workplaces.

Quarterly reviews that are traditional in their one-side approach only reinforce the mentality that growth and development in an organization is individual, not corporate. And it also makes no sense. For one, why are we not taking this opportunity to get feedback on our management and leadership from our direct reports? They are the only ones who can give that feedback. Our supervisors don’t interact with us in that capacity to give that feedback. My supervisor, our board chairperson, rarely interacts with me in the context of our whole team. The only people who can give me feedback on my leadership and management is the senior leadership team that I lead. I have to ask them. Secondly, a one-sided review only drives a distance between you and your direct report, further decreasing the likelihood of honest feedback when that time does come. Only through humility and levelling the playing field can true leadership happen. Frankly, asking a direct report for their honest opinion of your job performance is the simplest and easiest way to level the playing field, build rapport, and improve as a leader and a manager. And it’s free.

If we are to shift the mindset of growth and development from being about the individual to being about the organization as a whole, feedback has to become a two-way street.

Like a tree, whose internal systems carry nutrients and water from the roots up to the leaves, and carry energy from the leaves down to rest of the tree.

The second reason quarterly reviews don’t work is because important information can’t wait three months to be communicated. And if it’s not important information, it doesn’t belong in a quarterly review. If someone’s performance, or lack thereof, requires a conversation then have the conversation today. If you, as a leader, only get feedback four times a year, your own growth and development will be stunted. There’s nothing magical about quarters. You should be touching base with your team at least weekly, with a sit down one-to-one at least monthly.

The third reason that quarterly reviews are bad for business is because very rarely, in my experience, are they aligned to any measurement or key performance indicator. And if they are tied to KPIs they’re typically not tracked over time. Now, as I said earlier, today there are lots of software solutions that can solve this problem, and, in all fairness, I did say that this was one part rant. About a month after having our first child, my wife started getting very ill. During our first two trips to the emergency room, we were sent home and told it was just related to the birth. The third trip to the emergency room the ER attending was also a surgeon who quickly decided to take Steph in for exploratory surgery, which is when they discovered that her appendix had burst and she was septic. My wife fought for her life in a hospital bed while I took care of our one-month-old daughter. To say that my work suffered would be an understatement. To say that the last sentence sticks out like a sore thumb in the paragraph is also an understatement. However, my performance during that time came up in two quarterly reviews. Either they didn’t know my wife almost died and that we had a newborn, or they didn’t care. Either one is unacceptable. The second time it came up, they either didn’t know they had mentioned it before, or they didn’t care. Neither one is acceptable.

In order for our organizations to be healthy and life-giving for our people, feedback must be a two-sided conversation. It must be focused, it must be measured and measurable, and it must be memorable.

– Chad Verity, CEO, Hölmetrics