In the past 5 years, I have not received a single negative performance review. For every company I worked for, the manager had to be reminded by a third party or me that my review is due. We would go in a small meeting room and he would say good things about me then say something like "I will talk to bob about giving you a raise". The interesting part is if I was to ask them what I was working on they would have no idea.
I want to say I am grateful for this but I am not. Performance reviews should be made by someone who has an idea what is going on. The purpose is not just to say how you have been working but it is also a chance for you to speak about your experience and maybe get some help if you need some.
My one performance review that I found useful was with the lead developer of my team. Of all the the people I talked to this was the one person that was qualified. He knew exactly what I was working on and my challenges. He knew were I was weak and could give me advice on what I can improve. We would argue about a technical or design problem and the solution wouldn't be "Well I am the lead so we go my way". I got my highest raise after this performance review not because it was positive but because someone that new my worth vouched for me.
I would still go for abolishing performance reviews all together. I believe it is something made up by a smart manager that is used as an excuse not to give people raises. The outcome of a performance review is directly related to the last encounter you had with your reviewer. If you had tensions with your manager, don't be surprised if you get a negative review. And it is written in some virtual stone that you get your first after 3 months, then after a year and then it's a yearly thing. If you fail the test you have to wait a year before your next one.
Note: It is called a performance review but the better name would be performance test, because you can fail.
A new manager was hired 2 weeks before one of my reviews. I thought maybe this time we will skip it since he didn't know anything about me and I will selfishly collect my raise. On the day, I received an email for the review that was scheduled for 12 pm. We went into the little room and the nicest things were said about my work and my value in the company. It was no different then the script read by the cashier at Wendy's. I smirked. I wanted to call him a liar!
Not that my raises where any big, but after two years I felt like a puppy being given a treat to continue working. If I have to be honest, I would say the more treats I got, the less work I did. You know why? Because I could get the treat without doing the work. Incentive Pay Considered Harmful.
Giving somebody positive reinforcement (such as stupid company ceremonies where people get plaques) implies that they only did it for the lucite plaque; it implies that they are not independent enough to work unless they are going to get a cookie; and it's insulting and demeaning.
After my one fruitful performance review, I played a joke on a co-worker saying I was leaving the company. This escalated very quickly and reached the board of directors. I admitted it was a joke because it really was but I still received a handsome bonus just in case I wasn't joking.
2 years later I gave my 2 weeks notice in the same company. The VP of technology made a similar type of plea. I asked him if he knows what projects I worked on. He didn't have an answer. He was the one doing all my performance reviews for the past 18 months (I had one every 3 months). Maybe I could have been the worst employee in the team, or the best for that matter, it didn't matter.
I have to say I had it easy. Unlike some of my co-workers who would be very nice to everybody a few days before their review. The QA team had a different process. A questionnaire is emailed to everyone they worked with gradings from 1 to 5, five being very satisfied, on different criteria. When I received a questionnaire for my favorite QA, I felt like this form did no justice to describe his work. So instead I wrote an email.
You have to excuse me but I don't believe this list of criteria is fair to describe my experience working with
<Redacted>. So I hope you don't mind me responding with this email instead.
First of all, I can't say he responds in a timely manner, but I am by no mean complaining. I usually finish my work before lunch time and submit it to QA right away. We all know that Jiras can be misleading sometimes but we will save that for my reviews of managers if there is any. When something is not clear, we take a longer time then normal to communicate because of the time difference but the work is always approved and deployed before the deadline.
[... The good and bad things ...]
So this is what I have to say about
<Redacted>. And since we all know that you will use this to determine whether he gets a pay bump or not, my response is give him a raise.
My email was received with enthusiams, and it did answer those questions better then giving a 1 to 5. What's the difference between satified and very satisfied?
Each employee has their unique strength and weaknesses. If there was a questionnaire about me I would probably perform poorly because most of the work I do cannot be easily rated on a 1 to 5 scale. We don't need to be stressed once a year to be told by someone who has no clue what we are doing on how good or bad we are.
Extra Info: Maybe it was the email, maybe it wasn't but I am sure glad that the QA got a raise.