Performance Management Isn’t A Manager’s Job

Paul Hebert Paul Hebert, Performance, Performance Reviews

Along with employee engagement, performance management is the current “it” girl in the HR world. Posts, tweets, articles, speeches, and studies are plentiful…and contradictory. We have one camp saying you shouldn’t do performance management and the other side saying we need more of it!

No middle ground it seems.

From my point of view, I see performance management following the same arc that employee engagement/satisfaction surveys have traveled. First, it was annual surveys/reviews. Then it was quarterly. Then weekly/ad hoc and even continuously. Some don’t even bother to hide that they have no real opinion and just go all-in on all options – saying employee engagement requires be a combo platter of annual surveys, ongoing pulse surveys, and quick-hit one question “thumbs up/thumbs down” satisfaction surveys (or maybe those cute kiosks with happy-face buttons for the proletariat to punch as they leave work each evening.)

Performance management is now supposed to be something done immediately when a behavior is observed, tracked quarterly based on work/task objectives, and reported annually based on long-term career and personal goals.

Just what we need – another task for managers to do poorly.

You now me. I believe most of what ails business falls at the feet of bad managers trying to do a job they should never have been selected for, aren’t skilled at, nor adequately trained to do.

And therefore, no matter the type, timing, or template you use for performance management, it will never be done well.

And the reason is we have the process of performance management 100% backward.

Whose Performance are we talking about?

Think about this…we place the instigation of, the tracking of, and the reporting and review of performance solely on the overburdened and narrow shoulders of the manager. And that is wrong.

Whose performance are we managing? Who is doing the performance? Who is doing the work?

The employee, not the manager.

So why does the manager take the responsibility for someone else’s performance? Seems to me the employee is sitting fat, dumb, and lazy in this process. All the work that goes into the performance management process is on the manager’s to-do list. The employee just does their “job” and waits.

Let’s think about how to reverse that.

I think managers should have only three tasks in the performance management world.

  1. Communicate to the employee the things the company wants to get done so the company can be successful and therefore provide the employee with income, benefits, and to stay employed.
  2. Know what the employee wants to accomplish.
  3. Understand the impediments the employee may find working to accomplish the goals.

That’s it.

All the other stuff should be 100% on the employee’s task list.

I think the employee is responsible for:

  • Looking over the goals of the company their manager provided and deciding where they can (and want) to add the most value and articulating that to the manager.
  • Communicating with the manager the skills and experiences they want to have while employed.
  • Listing out their personal goals they want to work into their work/life flow.
  • Documenting the things they will do (observable, measurable) and the issues they need their manager to help with (ie: tools needed, timing, introductions to other departments, etc.)
  • Sharing all of the above with their manager.
  • Creating a schedule of events around their goals.
  • Scheduling time as required by their list.
  • Scheduling ad-hoc meetings as things arise and need to be discussed.

I’m not saying the manager doesn’t have tasks within this. They need to be available and engaged with the employee. They need to read the employee’s documents and come to the meetings prepared. And if they are really, really, good managers, be proactive when they think the employee is faltering and might be afraid to engage.

After all, it is the employee’s performance that needs to be managed. Who better to do that than the employee? Making managers the core driver in the performance management process seems to absolve the employee of any responsibility.

When it comes to performance management do employees get a pass because their manager “delayed” their review? Do employees have the right to sit back and say – “No one told me that typo-free work was a standard. It wasn’t discussed during my annual review.” Yeah… I don’t think so. Regardless of how bad a manager is – my performance is still MY performance.

Managers Shouldn’t Manage Performance

I think managers should focus on managing the environment in which work is performed.


We keep thinking managers manage people and the reality is managers should really be focused on the world in which their people work. Managers should be responsible for enabling employees, not managing them. Why do we hire adults and then immediately treat them like children?

I’m a big fan of managers being the people who get stuff out of the way of people trying to get work done.

Performance management is one of those things that managers add little value to. I’d go as far as to suggest the way we do performance management is one of the obstacles most employees would love to have removed from the environment, so they can get something accomplished.

Somewhere there is an employee trying to get work done – but their manager is too focused on filling out a 9-box correctly to help their employee figure out how to engage a leader in another department that needs to give approval to complete an employee’s task.

Be a manager – go manage that – and leave the performance management tasks to your employee.