A good idea for written annual reviews: no surprise criticisms

The law department of Rouse Company, which had 17 lawyers in 2004, didn’t do mid-year reviews. At annual reviews “the most important rule is that there can be no surprises on someone’s review. If you’ve got an employee whose attorneys are unhappy with the work all year but have not mentioned it, you are prohibited from putting it in the written review.”

As described in Rees Morrison, Law Department Administrators: Lessons from Leaders (Hildebrandt Inst. 2004) at 32, no one can put in writing “you’ve been screwing up your deals all year” when the person being evaluated hasn’t had a chance to correct the problem.

That prohibition, reportedly, has made members of the department much better at counseling and giving feedback throughout the year. This requirement pushes everybody to become more articulate and forthright.

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