Why Don’t Performance Reviews Work at Home?

Why Don’t Performance Reviews Work at Home? 150 150 Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP

On St. Valentine’s Day this year there was a funny little piece on the opinion page.  A wife giving a performance review for her husband.  He was labeled a “potential optimal husband”.  He was not quite there yet.  She explained the development opportunities for him, acknowledged his accomplishments as a husband for the past 20 years, and made recommendations for development. (Brody, 2018)

It was funny because it was tongue in cheek.  More importantly, it was funny because it is highly unlikely we would ever attempt to have a performance discussion at home with our spouse or partner.  In my experience, I can’t think of any situation where I would be willing to receive that kind of feedback. I can’t imagine my partner would either.  Am I wrong? If typical performance reviews are popular at work why don’t we use them at home?  It’s because they damage trust and trust is the most essential element for a relationship.

They Damage Trust

The quality of a relationship is directly dependent upon the level of trust. Furthermore, the results of an organization are directly dependent upon the level of trust. Exceptional leaders recognize this and behave accordingly.  They recognize their own behavior must demonstrate trust first before they can expect trust in return.  An exceptional leader will ask great questions in a caring way, and they won’t criticize or micro-manage. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

When you judge someone, you immediately increase the probability of a negative emotional reaction.  We all have our own opinions about behaviors and events.  We are all biased with our views. But, isn’t it better to either withhold your bias and ask respectfully and positively for what you want?  Or, another option is to honestly acknowledge your bias and then ask respectfully and positively for what you want.  Our opinions may not be facts.  The bible reminds us we should look for the boulder in our own eye before we point out the pebble in another’s.  Aren’t we are better off asking someone questions and offering loving solutions than we are criticizing?

At home, we always need innovative ideas to make the home life better.  The same is true at our work.  Rarely will we improve creativity by criticizing others because it discourages risk taking.  A typical performance review discussion will very often increase fear and anger and shut down innovation.  This applies to a family and a work team.

Skylar Capo, 11, of Fredericksburg, Va., saw a little bird on the ground in her dad’s backyard. (News, 2011)  She then noticed the family’s cat eyeing it, too.  Skylar scooped up the woodpecker and looked for the bird’s mother. Her search turned up empty.  She asked her own mom, Alison, to help her decide what to do.   Her mom suggested they take care of the bird until it was strong enough to survive on its own.  Being an avid nature lover and animal rescuer, Skylar was thrilled.  She had saved the bird from an untimely death at the paws of the cat and she was going to learn how to care for it.

The Capos put the bird in their car to drive to a Lowes Home Improvement Store to search for materials they may need to care for the bird.  Bringing the bird inside in a cage so it wouldn’t suffer in the summer heat while they shopped they began their search when a shopper stopped them.  The shopper claimed to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.   She explained they were in violation of protected species act.  Two weeks later the Capo’s were fined $535 because the law prohibits the capture or transport of any protected species.  A State Trooper, even though she was told the whole story, threatened Skylar’s mom to 1 year in jail if she ever did it again.  Thankfully two weeks later the ticket and the threat were cancelled, and apology was given.

The typical appraisal process is frequently used to enforce policy and procedure.  Policies are designed to control behaviors and they virtually always have positive intentions.  However, as with little Skylar, policies often don’t fit every situation and therefore can cause unintended consequences (the cat killing a baby bird). Because it is used as an enforcement tool, the typical performance review discussion often stops creative action.  What will little Skylar do next time she sees a baby bird in danger?

Any attempt to control behaviors of your partner at home will clearly end in disaster.  Any attempt to make policy without full transparency and agreement from all at the home will also likely end in emotional upset.  The typical appraisal holds many employees back from taking risks and this prevents the organization from achieving incremental change.  The typical appraisal won’t work at home and the home has even higher trust than the work place.  If it damages trust and creativity at home, what makes us think it can work in the workplace?

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review: https://www.c-suitetv.com/video/best-seller-tv-wally-hauck-stop-the-leadership-malpractice/

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.


Brody, B. (2018, February 14). My Valentine’s Day performance review. USA Today, p. 7A.

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