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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sam Wants You!
Ah, the business/career advice book, that calm appeal to mature rumination in favor of some innovative approach! That is NOT this book. This is a would-be inflammatory polemic looking to send mobs of its readers, pitchforks and torches in hand, to overturn the oppressive and inefficient old regime and bring in a new and happier age.

Okay, I exaggerate a bit...
Published on March 21, 2010 by J. Moran

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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 10-chapter book squeezed into just 1 poorly constructed chapter, & the topic deserved something more than conversational text.
It was OK. I didn't particularly like it. But I didn't dislike it. I liked the title and was hoping for a well-written and well-organized tome that would justify the elimination of Job Performance Reviews in all or most companies that have subordinate employees. Unfortunately the book was more a rant than a researched and logical treatise on why America's workforce would...
Published on March 4, 2010 by Jeff Lippincott


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sam Wants You!, March 21, 2010
By 
This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
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Ah, the business/career advice book, that calm appeal to mature rumination in favor of some innovative approach! That is NOT this book. This is a would-be inflammatory polemic looking to send mobs of its readers, pitchforks and torches in hand, to overturn the oppressive and inefficient old regime and bring in a new and happier age.

Okay, I exaggerate a bit. The book is full of rational arguments establishing the dysfunctionality of the performance review ("PR""). The tone, however, is wholly unlike that of most such books. Culbert writes with the zeal of a righteous preacher, who knows sin when he sees it and strives to extirpate it root and branch. And he wants the reader to join him. He hammers away (sometimes repetitiously, as in all good sermons) at the evil and promotes a remedy at once more effective and virtuous, what Culbert calls a performance preview ("PP").

Other reviewers outlined Culbert's strictures against the PR, so I will not repeat them at length. My own experience has been that Culbert is spot on. The PR is irremediably one-sided, subjective, boss-serving, dishonest, counter-productive and backward looking. It leaves employees demoralized and concerned more about personal "faults" than business objectives.

The PP, as Culbert describes it, at least has a chance to create true teams, with everyone (including the boss) jointly accountable for achieving team goals that reflect business objectives. To work, the PP requires trust and honesty between and among subordinates and boss. Culbert recognizes that this can be difficult both to establish and to sustain and must be worked at. Without trust and honesty the PP approach will fail.

Culbert's views are anchored in his deep belief that a desire for useful work is a central part of our humanity. The work experience, he thinks, should thus be satisfying as well as efficient; and fulfilling as well as profitable. He believes that the PR makes attaining these goals impossible. He may well be right.

This is an interesting and passionately argued book, well worth the reading.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 10-chapter book squeezed into just 1 poorly constructed chapter, & the topic deserved something more than conversational text., March 4, 2010
This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
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It was OK. I didn't particularly like it. But I didn't dislike it. I liked the title and was hoping for a well-written and well-organized tome that would justify the elimination of Job Performance Reviews in all or most companies that have subordinate employees. Unfortunately the book was more a rant than a researched and logical treatise on why America's workforce would be better off if they didn't have to be subjected to annual performance reviews.

The book is not all that long considering the line spacing was not single and the font size was larger than I am used to reading in a business book. It has 10 chapters and I would list them here if I thought that would help you understand what the book was about. But I'm not going to list them. The meat of the book is found in Chapter 7 entitled "There has to be a better way. And there is." The 12 gripes the author has with performance reviews are listed there as follows:

1. Performance reviews focus on finding faults and placing blame.
2. Performance reviews focus on deviations from some ideal as weaknesses.
3. Performance reviews are about comparing employees.
4. Performance reviews create a competition between boss and subordinate.
5. Performance reviews are one-side-accountable and boss-dominated monologues.
6. Performance reviews are thunderbolt from on high, with the boss speaking for the company.
7. Performance reviews mean that if the subordinate screws up, then the subordinate suffers.
8. Performance reviews allow the big boss to go on autopilot.
9. The performance review is a scheduled event.
10. Performance reviews give HR people too much power.
11. Performance reviews don't lead to anything of substance.
12. Performance reviews are hated, and managers and subordinates avoid doing them until they have to.

Some of these things I agree with. But some of them I don't. But that is not really the issue. What bothered me was that the substance of the book was squeezed into Chapter 7 and the other chapters really didn't add much to the topic. Chapter 7 taken alone just did not support the price of the book. In fact, Chapter 7 could have been laid out a whole lot better, and it wasn't.

I got the feeling that the author got a lousy job performance review recently, and by writing this book he was able to deal with that review. When I was going through grade school and middle school in my youth the superintendant of schools for my school district did not believe kids should get grades on their report cards. So I got Ss and Ns for "satisfactory" and "needs improvement." What a shock high school was when I all of a sudden had to get grades on my report cards. As I read the instant book I felt as though the author was as wacky as my old superintendent of schools. Progress reviews might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But they do have their purposes. And often times they are needed. And HR people are supposed to have leadership roles in organizations - not merely be subordinates like the author suggests. 3 stars!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Are we reading the same book?, January 26, 2011
By 
Amazon Customer (Indiana, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
For everyone who gave it 4 stars and up, I have to ask, did we all read the same book?

Here's the issue (and a handful of other reviews mention it but they're drowned out by the positive reviews) THE WHOLE BOOK CAN BE CONDENSED INTO TWO CHAPTERS max.

It is not until you get to page 143 that the author starts talking about his alternative to the PR. Seriously, come on.. If we are reading this book, it's because we are looking for an alternative. I don't need 140+ pages for you to bash on the PR - we get it, it doesn't work, got it, let's move on.

So frankly, if you want to read it - just skip the rest and read chapters 7 & 8. The first six are a complete waste of time. You do not get anything out of it other than a rehash of things you know already - PR as they are done today are not very effective.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good concept, disappointing result, February 14, 2011
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This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
When I saw the title of this book, I was excited about the potential solutions it might hold. What I purchased and read was a 228 page rant about the evils of the review process and the incompetence of the HR profession. While I agree with some of his opinions, this is not a book that objectively reviews alternative systems, nor does it present a viable solution. The performance preview is even less likely to be an effective alternative than the review process it is supposed to replace. Save your money and keep looking.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Change is Needed - Perhaps More Examples Needed?, April 23, 2010
This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
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The book is interesting and certainly author Culbert is very passionate about the subject. At times, that passion can translate into a bit of belligerence when, really, if you have bought the book he's likely already convinced you by the first page. As with most of these types of HR books, the author seems to stretch the topic as far as possible (it might have sufficed as a white paper!) and there is a lot of rhetoric and then a few examples. I'm always interested in practice rather than theory but I had no doubt that Culbert knew the subject well and had some great ideas in there for better HR evaluation and incentive practices.

In almost 15 years in HR I've seen many different performance evaluation situations:
- ranging from 1 page to 5 pages
- some that require extensive written feedback, some that require almost none
- evaluations that have all the text auto-entered for the manager when they click on a rating level in each category
- I've had managers who deliver reviews in person/on phone to all of their employees and managers who only put it in writing and send it to the employee (despite guidelines to verbally deliver)
- I've had managers who answer phone calls during the performance evaluation discussion with their employee.
- evaluations that say illegal or inappropriate things, like "because she was on medical leave for four months, I didn't promote her."
- employees who visit my office to say their manager just gave them a bad review and it's the first they've ever heard that there was a problem
- evaluations that speak glowingly of employees, then two months later the manager comes to you and says they've had it and the employee must be fired immediately
- My own manager in HR invited me out to lunch to deliver my review. Does ANYONE want to eat while getting their evaluation, even if it's all good?

So yes, there are a lot of problems out there with performance reviews. However, if you do it RIGHT, you don't have the problems above. Have the right tool (online peer evaluation for example) and train your managers well, and performance evaluations will serve all the purposes they should.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cut the length by 2/3 and it may then be worth reading, April 12, 2010
This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
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I'm sure that Professor Culbert is a smart guy. I'm sure that he has an amazing record of professional success, and a client list that reads like the Who's Who of the Fortune 500. I also think that his argument has merit, and can perhaps serve to remind us as to the human side of management. However I would have rather read a 15-page Harvard Business Review covering the same scope of content, rather than this 256 page book. As a business manager I do not have unlimited time, and authors who take unnecessary liberties with readers' time do us all an injustice.

To summarize, the first 120 pages of this book repeat over and over again how terrible performance reviews are. I'm serious - some of the exact same sentences are repeated over and over, as if the editor just picked random places to paste the same content in. If you make it through the first 20 pages, you have the thesis, you have a dozen or so scenarios where fictional characters do things in a way that is obviously silly, and you are now ready to move on to the solution. Too bad you have to keep reading through the repetition of the same stuff.

When the author does get to his solution, an on-going conversation focusing on three questions between the manager and managed. I think this is perhaps the most useful part of the book. The questions are:

1. What are you getting from me that you like and find helpful?

2. What are you getting from me/the company that gets in your way and which you would like to have stopped?

3. What are you not getting from me/the company that you think would make you more effective. Tell me how that would help you specifically to do your job better.

Unfortunately, I think that these questions are best understood as only a portion of a larger performance management cycle. Professor Culbert assumes that staff members will be well informed enough to engage in this conversation with a level of maturity and self-awareness sufficient to yield great results. In my experience helping dozens of companies set up performance management systems, I know for a fact that even the most motivated of staff members cannot be expected to, on the whole, to function in the way in which Professor Culbert expects. Neither can most supervisors/managers.

I doubt that many senior managers will take this book seriously. In fact, most won't make it past the first 25 pages, as they don't have the time to waste getting through all the repetition. Most HR Managers won't take it seriously because they know there are valid reasons for comprehensive Performance Management systems which are not discussed in this book. Some Supervisors might like this book because it gives them some more ammunition to avoid doing what, for many, is a very uncomfortable part of their job.

I think though that Professor Culbert is hoping that he will get some grassroots support from the 'victims' of performance reviews. He certainly tosses enough inflammatory language around to get some people thinking of tar and feathering, and perhaps getting out their pitchforks. Maybe the inflammatory language is the key to keep people's interest through the repetition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No wonder you can get a new book so inexpensively, March 14, 2012
By 
J Chancey (Bellingham, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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I don't write reviews but this book is so bad that I am compelled to comment. It is basically 200+ pages of finding different ways to state that performance reviews are across the board bad, with a few pages on a manager's role of helping employees succeed as an alternative to employee reviews. There is no meaningful information or analysis to substantiate what basically comes across as the author's belief. Rather it is written in opinion format with little new insight. The book uses vulgarity for reasons that are not clear and has the unintended consequence of furthering the argument that tenured professorship can be problematic in achieving the objective of better education. There is a reason why you can buy this book new at used book sites.
I am not an HR person but a business manager. I thought this book would provide strong insight into the world of performance reviews. It did not do that for me. It comes across as written by someone who needs an outlet for pent up frustration rather than being a product that is instructive, educational and the result of meaningful research.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exaggerating to make a point, August 22, 2011
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This is a provocative "screed" that has received some attention in the management press (thanks in part, I suspect, to the fact that the co-author is on the staff of the Wall Street Journal). The case against traditional performance reviews is that they have effectively become tools of intimidation rather than authentic ways of helping improve performance. By eliminating them, and more importantly by changing the dynamic from superior/subordinate to leader/contributor, mistakes become opportunities to learn rather than occasions for punishment. That's a critical re-frame, in my opinion, and worth wading through the exaggerations to get to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depicts "management sciene" run amok, March 13, 2011
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This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
This book has a relevance to the current jobs crisis. Employers' practice of not hiring the unemployed in favor of the already employed may well be a legacy of the performance review-ranking system which corporations use to evaluate employee performance. Samuel A. Culbert's 2010 book, "Get Rid of the Performance Review," describes management's charge to rank employees in a "forced bell curve" comprising 20% most effective, 70% effective, and 10% least effective, in which the bottom group faces termination within one year. This may seem fair until one learns that the group being ranked is usually a group of homogeneously high performers such that a scientifically-based measurement of their performance distribution could not be honestly fitted by a bell-curve, hence Professor Culbert's use of "forced bell curve" and of management's "search for failure," meaning that management has not done its job until it finds candidates for the bottom peer group. And employees showing the most independence and initiative are usually at the highest risk. Milton said it best,

"Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
The infernal serpent; he it was, whole guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers...."

Without a doubt the first employees to be laid off - to to asked to leave the company, to be cast out from heaven - are the bottom 10%, which may be why the unemployed in search of a job are lepered by employers.

This is "management science" run amok. There is a chain of ranked employees from 1 to N, and one can find out what one's "little n" number is by asking his boss. An employee can move up from position n to position n+1 only if the person already occupying position n+1 is moved down to position n. This ranking is done in slave-mart style by bosses in ranking sessions bidding up or down employees who are not present and who are known only to his or her immediate boss and usually not at all to the other bosses. It is understood that one's immediate boss lobbies for his own people, whether with a wink or not. Thus the bosses' own status, personal strength, and mud-pot perceptions of job importance at a given time - all play a role in where an employee winds up on the chain.

Anyone can peruse a text on statistics, even one published in a business context, and find a diversity of mathematically-known statistical distributions, among which is the bell-curve distribution, whose central limit theorem states that the sum of a large number of random variables is distributed about a single mean value. But usually in employee ranking the number of "random variables" - think employees being ranked - is not large and is not random but homogeneous. If management science really was a science, managers would have to work hard to measure the true distribution of employee performance, which probably would not fit one of the analytically-known textbook examples.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When performance matters, get rid of the performance reveiw!, October 23, 2010
This review is from: Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters (Hardcover)
Get Rid of The Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters, by Samuel A. Culbert with Lawrence Rout (2010, Business Plus).

Overview: I've always detested getting and giving performance reviews (PR). Something about the process made it seem artificial and skewed toward whoever held the upper hand: Management. Professor Samuel Culbert (UCLA) and Lawrence Rout, senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, have helped me finally understand how PR can have unintended consequences for both manager and employee. In an accessible, immensely easy-to-read style with funny asides to the reader, the book feels like Culbert is whispering in your ear, Hey, you know this performance review stuff is such BS...you know it and I know it. In fact, he does say roughly that (I think he leaves out the "hey"). Without mincing words, Culbert presents PR with all its wants and warts. He analyzes the big culprits: Management theory, management control, and Human Resources (who he all but demonizes--overdone in my opinion). However, he demonstrates in the first half of the book why PR remains an ineffective, top down leadership tool. He then spends the rest of the book offering an alternative, the performance preview (PP). This performance preview offers a new collaborative model that holds both manager and employee responsible for success (in fact, Peter Drucker contends in his writings that managers are responsible for employee success or failure). The payoff comes later in the book when Culbert offers "Performance Review Guidelines" (pp. 198-202). Every manager would do very well to read the two conversation guidelines he offers--one question-based conversation for a new or recently assigned employee and the other question-based conversation about progress. Both manager and employee can significantly benefit from such conversations. And any thoughtful manager can benefit from this book.

Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D. Blog: [...]
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Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing--and Focus on What Really Matters
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