One in four employees cry after workplace performance reviews, study says

According to a new Adobe survey, 55 per cent of employees wish that their companies would get rid of or change the way performance reviews are structured. Getty Images

Being able to take criticism from your manager is one thing, but a bad performance review is a whole other experience – just ask your colleague who’s crying in the bathroom.

According to a new Adobe survey that measured 1,500 U.S. employees’ and employers’ responses toward performance reviews, 22 per cent of the former admitted they have cried at least once after receiving a bad appraisal while 20 per cent felt it was necessary to quit following a stressful review.

Even managers find the task of performance reviews daunting and unproductive. Just over 60 per cent of managers say the review process is outdated and that the time they spend on preparing for them negatively impacts the ability to do their jobs.

“The findings from this survey show how time consuming, cumbersome and demotivating performance reviews are for many employees,” says Donna Morris, executive vice president of Customer and Employee Experience at Adobe.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Are you satisfied with your work schedule? Most Canadians aren’t

Adobe, a software company, abolished the review process in 2012. As a result, Morris says the company has seen higher engagement, improved retention and strong company performance among employees.

But just how upsetting and stressful can these reviews be?

Well first off, men are more likely to have a stronger reaction than women when it comes to bad reviews as 43 per cent have looked into switching companies, 25 per cent have cried after a review and 28 per cent flat out quit (compared to 31 per cent, 18 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively).

Overall, almost 60 per cent of all respondents feel annual reviews are stressful and that they put employees in competition with each other.

And rather than waiting for scheduled annual or bi-annual reviews, 80 per cent of office workers would prefer to receive feedback in the moment instead because they see the practice of performance appraisals as outdated and irrelevant.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Performance reviews in today’s workplace

According to Arturo Gallo of, performance reviews have been debated in workplaces over the last few years. Some, he says, feel there’s still merit while others believe they’re outdated and no longer needed, eliminating them altogether.

Story continues below advertisement

“Getting rid of reviews is becoming somewhat of a trend but not all companies are doing it,” Gallo says. “In my opinion, reviews are still effective if we take them as a conversation and a way to get feedback from your manager.”

But a lot of employees miss the idea of performance reviews and see it as only a one-way conversation, which is not the case. Gallo says they also present an opportunity for employees to discuss taking on new projects, for example, as well as a chance to discuss the future of your career within the company.

“I think that as the workplace continues to evolve, performance reviews should become more flexible,” Gallo says. “They may well all disappear, but as long as there’s that open line of communication between manager and employee, then that’s good too.”

Tips on preparing and handling annual appraisals

When it comes to preparing for your review, there are a few things Gallo suggests doing – relaxing is one of them.

“Have a good night’s sleep before the review,” he says. “Look at the review as an opportunity to grow and learn and not as a way of being put down.”

Next, prepare by doing a quick assessment of your work and performance.

“Acknowledge your strengths and learn to know your weaknesses and make sure you are aware of them,” Gallo says. “If [your weaknesses] come up in an interview, then you can acknowledge that this is your area of opportunity and improvement. This way it’ll be less of a surprise and you’ll feel the pushback less.”
Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: The 7 professional traits that will help you get a promotion at work

And if you’re really nervous, there’s no harm in practicing what you’re going to say.

Gallo suggests rehearsing in front of a mirror to help you prepare and loosen up, especially if you want to bring up points that make you nervous – like asking for a promotion.

For more tips on how to stand out during your performance review, click here.

If you’ve had a poor review, don’t worry – there are ways to bounce back.

First, evaluate what went wrong, says Mark Swartz of in a blog post. Think about how you ended up receiving a bad review – did you not manage your time and priorities well enough? Did the quality of your work fail?

Second, improve how you manage priorities. Schedule a private talk with your manager and have them lay out exactly which tasks and assignments they need you to focus on and set deadlines. Swartz also suggests establishing milestone and dates to report back to your manager.

For additional tips on how to recover after a bad review, click here.

Other key findings from Adobe

  • 88 per cent of office workers say they endure performance reviews
  • 61 per cent of employees feel managers often play favourites in the performance review process
  • 59 per cent of employees say their performance review has no impact on how they do their job
  • 52 per cent say having their performance ranked against their peers is upsetting
  • 55 per cent of office workers and 66 per cent of managers wish that their companies would get rid of or change its structured performance review process
  • More than four in 10 employees would switch jobs to a company that didn’t have a formal performance review process even if the pay and job level were the same
  • On average, managers spend more than two work days preparing for each review

Sponsored content