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Most lawyers in-house criticize their performance review system

It’s the rare in-house lawyer who raves that her department’s performance appraisal system is crackerjack. Like career paths and the adequacy of communication from the top, the annual evaluation process takes more than its share of lickings. According to the NY Times, Sept. 10, 2006 at BU 3, Watson Wyatt, the human resources consulting firm, found that only 30 percent of employees believe that their company’s performance review system actually improves performance. Watson Wyatt also found that almost half of employers thought that their managers were at best only slightly effective in helping underperforming employees to improve.

For many reasons, corporate lawyers dislike being evaluated. No one enjoys negative feedback, of course, which truism is exacerbated by the fact that most people overestimate their abilities relative to those of their peers. Lawyers rebel against the company’s standard evaluation form, which they denigrate as unsuitable to the kind of work they do — it’s a rating iron maiden. Evaluations that take place only once a year are too spread out to be specific and actionable; managers lose track of day-to-day contributions. For some people, evaluations simply don’t tap into what’s most important about their job. Others gripe that pay increases and promotions are unconnected to evaluations. And, finally, almost everyone feels they are too subjective.

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