The Real Reason to Kill Your Performance Ratings

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The growing wisdom to "kill performance ratings" actually follows from an even larger observation about traditional performance management.

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The NeuroLeadership Institute hasn’t been all that subtle in our stance on performance ratings. In short, we don’t support them. Giving someone a fixed label and expecting them to reach new heights just doesn’t make much scientific sense.

Since 2014, when we first called upon leaders to kill their performance ratings, dozens if not hundreds of organizations have made the shift to a ratings-less world. This is good news. But as Rob Ollander-Krane pointed out on a recent episode of the “Your Brain at Work” podcast, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Asking whether or not a company should get rid of ratings is actually missing the bigger point about the changes that are going on in this performance management evolution,” Rob, the Head of Talent at GAP Inc. said.

That bigger point is whether the organization cultivates in its employees either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed-mindset employee sees their abilities as rigid, and unchanging. Labels typically create this self-perception, Rob says. On the other hand, someone using a growth mindset sees their skills as improvable.

Performance reviews are a critical opportunity for leaders to inspire a growth mindset, and to promote greater engagement across the entire organization. And yet, as Rob points out, so many times they end up creating a fixed mindset in how they rate people and create obstacles for growth.

“I don’t want to live in that world,” Rob says. “So, I go back to saying that I’m not sure you have to get rid of ratings, but I think any label drives a fixed mindset culture as opposed to a growth mindset culture. And it’s better to get rid of that and allow people to just understand how they’re doing against their goals.”

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