Performance Reviews and Self-Evaluations — Which Makes For Worse Hangovers?

The Hangover © 2009 Warner Brothers Entertainment

The experience of unpleasant physiological and psychological effects caused by drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.


Typical symptoms include a headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting, the absence of hunger, depression, sweating, nausea, hyperexcitability, and anxiety.


Are we sure we’re describing the symptoms of a hangover and not those of performance reviews and self-evaluations in the workplace?

How so?

A senior managing editor contacted me through cold call email on the subject they were covering in an article—self-evaluations in the workplace. He wanted to update this article at the link he shared with me.

He was hoping I might see something worth adding or have some interesting insight, on one or more of the tips in the article.

Would you, he asked me, be interested in taking a look?

At first glance, I wanted to push back on this opportunity.


Fog Alert

Because the kaleidoscope of experts you talk with, or those researching self-evaluations in the workplace, regardless of their claims, are unable to clear the dense fog advisory and soupy conditions affecting performance reviews.

Enveloped in this dense fog and soupy conditions are mystery and controversy with this miscued piece of HR work.

I think most of us would agree with the first-hand experience—reviews are worse than a hangover, right?

And self-evaluations?

Sadomasochism. The giving or receiving pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation.

Self-evaluations including performance reviews have officially taken S&M mainstream in the workplace. Now, it seems like a little bondage could be everywhere you look.

Photo by Carla Oliveria on Unsplash

Like in billiards and snooker, performance reviews including self-evaluations become shots in which players fail to strike the ball accurately with the cue.

Others argue self-evaluations are one of the best methods to engage employees in the process of looking at performance and setting both job and career goals.

The self-evaluation process ensures employees prepare, as others contend, thoughtfully on their performance development planning or appraisal with their boss.

Those in this center of gravity and line of sight claim self-evaluations provide a useful opportunity for employees to consider their level of contribution and participation, seriously.

So it’s like that?

It’s all good, pop the bubbly, life is lovely

All sun no rain

No strain, can’t complain

Pass Hell, but no Coumbaya

Now I Boomshaka-laka-laka- Boo-ah-ah

I got the good life, no strife, real nice.*

No. It’s not like that.

It depends on a center of gravity and line of sight, doesn’t it?

Whose center of gravity, and line of sight, in self-evaluations, is paramount here.

Often this can and does become a force multiplier for more chained in the cave thinking and performing.

Here Be Dragons.

This thinking and performing in reviews in the workplace destroys morale, kills teamwork, and hurts the bottom line.

These methods are one-side-accountable, boss-administered reviews, Samuel A. Culbert argues, which are little more than a dysfunctional pretense.

Objectivity is subjective. Even the mere knowledge that a performance review will take place, Culbert adds, damages daily communications and teamwork.

These reviews often become differential rather than integral calculus—preserving the boss’s authority and power advantage.

Is this intimidation necessary?

The boss has the power with or without the performance review.

People see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear.

Consider, as Colbert highlights, the well-observed fact that when people switch bosses, they often receive sharply different evaluations from the new boss to whom they report.

Two People — Two Mindsets

Photo by Gerome Viavant on Unsplash

The mindshare and mindscapes held by two stakeholders in performance reviews, often work at cross-purposes.

Do Dragons Lie In Wait?

Mokita (used in Kivila spoken in Papua New Guinea), translates into English, as the truths we all know but agree not to talk about.

Related concepts in the English language include the elephant in the room and polite fiction where everyone is aware of the truth but pretends to believe some alternative version to avoid shame, embarrassment, or conflict.

Mokita can and does do damage to people, climates and cultures, environments and ecosystems in organizations because leadership and stakeholders do not address the actual problems or work on needed solutions.

Instead, leadership and stakeholders end up working on things that will make no difference; waste time, energy and resources normalizing the abnormal (it’s still abnormal!).

What happens to you when you challenge mokita in performance reviews, or self-evaluations—working at cross-purposes between you and your boss?

If there are a climate and culture of authenticity in performance reviews including self-evaluations, mokita cuts both ways for you and your boss including your company—willingness to frame shortcomings, not as problems or things done wrong but instead authentic areas for development.

If your company and your boss expect you to go authentically deeper to discover a bandwidth of insights, learn more, do better, and contribute at a higher level, then they too should be willing authentically to do so.

They too should have a plan like you on how to get there with you, so you feel authentically appreciated, believe and see that your work has an authentic purpose,what you have done, and are doing, matters.

Organizations do not make people—people make organizations. Neither do job titles make people—people make job titles and bequeath them with authentic power.

Ownership (personal accountability; personal responsibility; personal self-reliance) in performance reviews and self-evaluations become the antidote (hangover remedies) for mokita.

With this center of gravity and line of sight, both you and your boss including your company have the opportunity to ask genuine questions and seek reciprocal answers—What’s the formal and informal rules and syntax at work here in our climate and culture, environments and ecosystems?

Is this more mokita? Or less?

Don’t like something?

Change it.

News flash! Performance reviews including self-evaluations are also about how your boss and your company can make a stronger contribution to you. Asking questions that authentically matter, whether they can be quantified in traditional ways.

The passion of this caliber rises like cream to the top when leadership and stakeholders create sustainable climates and cultures, environments and ecosystems in organizations that put employees first and grow authentic human-centric places to work.

Results become innovative business models and processes (business process management) that drive economic growth, transparency, and employee-centric messaging for all stakeholders.

Do your boss and your company talk this walk? And walk this talk?

Job performance or job security shouldn’t land on you feeling yourself crossing a line that you don’t want to or mean to cross. Pleasing others. Or looking bad just because. Or how well you are playing the game at work.

And when you cross it enough times, as Rudy Baylor insists in The Rainmaker, it disappears forever. “And then you’re nothin’ but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in dirty water.”

Or having success, and then advancement forward (onward and upward) depends on your storytelling skills—concisely telling your story including the problem, the fix, and the end results to placate importantly insidious informal rules and syntax in the climate and culture, ecosystem and environment in your organization.

Where are your manager and your company in all of this?

What have they done? Or are doing, documenting their achievements? How’s this working out for you? For them? How is this, helping you?

Do you find yourself needing or hesitating to ask for guidance, direction, and mentoring?

Again, this cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

Excuse the cliché. You don’t hire bright people, Steven Jobs argued, to tell them what to do. Instead, you hire bright people so they can tell their boss including the company what to do.

Are you able to put bad days in perspective, and live with a sense of purpose?

In a contrarian’s guide to the universe, are you performing in superior | subordinate relationships that give you limited, or indirect resistance (express negative feelings subtly through actions instead of handling them directly) proactive feedback?

If you answered yes, then it’s time to sincerely question whether your wellbeing is being attended to in a healthy climate and culture, environment and ecosystems—Generativity vs. Stagnation.

You Deserve Better

As does your boss and company expect from you.

Success is fantastic, Robin Sharma argues, but the significance is even better. Are you expected to contribute, and leave a mark on the people around you?

When you fail to live from this reference, Sharma contends, you betray yourself.

Authentic leaders, Sharma insists, are always building their legacies by adding deep value to everyone they deal with and leaving the world a better place in the process.

Why should you have to, or be expected to singularly mitigate a failure of nerve, or syntax of learned helplessness, skillfully in your climate and culture, environment and ecosystems at work?

Performance reviews including self-evaluation processes should not be opportunities for employees to show HR or their boss they are brilliant fact collectors who fit neatly and comfortably within political correctness; tick-the-right-boxers; or plug-and-players.

Pass The Baton — Brilliance Lies Within All Of Us

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Stop. I know what you’re going to say. Knock it off. 

Here’s my rebuttal to you and HRs knee jerk reflex (countering adversely) brilliance lies within all of us.

Who, or what then, is this lowest common denominator?

The dispensability of human beings.

People are not only increasingly unnecessary to our global economy, Korten adds, but they and their demands for a living wage, are a major source of economic inefficiency. In Korten’s calculus, global corporations are acting to purge themselves of this unwanted burden.

We are, as Korten contends, creating a system that has fewer places for people.

The race is about the runners, not the baton. The relay should bring out the best in everyone.

A baton drop doesn’t automatically disqualify your team. The secret of learning is failing early, fail often.

Without failure, Tim Hartford argues, nothing can be discovered. Few of our failures, he adds, are fatal.

Performance reviews including self-evaluation processes are about discovering, and working-through or past, story patterns not just the content.

Treasuring individuals and interactions over the wizardry and magic potions of process and tools, data and technique.

I’m tired of hearing human capital labeled as that—assets or just employees, aren’t you? And branding them as labor, who can always be or are traded, for money.

If it’s flowing—corral ’em. When it’s drying up—send ’em out to pasture on the open range.

Trading Labor For Money — Both Must Coexist For Your Company To Survive

Short-term thinking infects many companies. They trade long-term investments in labor (body shopping) and communities in exchange for higher profits, and a few fleeting “attaboys” from Wall Street, financial thought communities, and financial communities of practice groups.

Mindshare is often more important than Market Share—not just a big footprint.

Adaptability and resiliency require a willingness to abandon routines, reboot the mind, see and lead in the dark, craft new realities, and build on existing strengths.

The illusion of control comes from normalizing the abnormal. Organizations have few incentives to be resilient until they are confronted with their mortality—Managing for Economic Decline.

Employee skill sets and passion are rewarded by innovators and early adopters landing on the bell curve, not as the norm in the corporate empire builders and our global economy.

Office politics stand in the way of passion and productivity. Stakeholders (employees) are penalized for bad management. Employees are tired of feeling paranoid only to find out that they were correct—people were talking about them and preparing to stab them in the back.

Corporate existence is considered to result from unchangeable facets of human behavior. The situation is brittle. Business process management and restructuring churn create organizational problems as bad as the ones they solve.

Organizations are spinning their wheels—innovatively doing the same thing over-and-over-again (normalizing the abnormal—it’s still abnormal!) innovatively assuring investors different innovative results or end states (tragically more of the same).

A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Trying to feed yourself and others? Holding spoons with very long handles in performance reviews and self-evaluation processes?

What and how you think about reality—what you eat—either stands in your way or makes it possible for your enterprise to move forward with dispatch.

This mindshare requires a certain skill. Learning to feed each other.

It opens new environments and ecosystems of innovation, intellectual and emotional capital, and thought equity.

Without this mindshare, malnutrition sets in.

Or worse yet, it can lead to famine and starvation.

Understanding The Environment

Would you like to avoid being or becoming a theme park dinosaur in your industry?

Jurassic World Sequel First Look. TM(C)Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc.

Corporate, Public and Social Sectors are full of examples of enterprises who are failing to adapt or survive in their operating environments and ecosystems.

Being able to identify oncoming risks: blind spots; mokita (truths we all know but agree not to talk about), and anomalies, including what is authentically causing them—makes or breaks your organization.

Are you hell-bent on giving up assumptions, expectations, and comfort zones that hold you back from authentic change?

There is more than one way to tell a story; everyone has a story to tell, and everyone deserves a chance to tell her or his own story.

Never allow someone to be your priority, while allowing yourself to be their option. —Mark Twain



* Written by Ronald Bell, Claydes Smith, George Brown, James Taylor, Robert Mickens, Earl Toon, Dennis Thomas, Robert Bell, Eumir Deodato, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Will Smith, Jeffrey Townes • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Walt Disney Music Company, Universal Music Publishing Group.