Review reversal

Come performance review time, most IT employees would relish the thought of actually being able to turn the tables and formally evaluate their manager. In reality, a small percentage of IT employees are actually doing just that.

While not exactly widespread, the concept of employees reviewing their managers occurs much more frequently than one might assume. Robert Black, a Toronto-based analyst at IT consulting firm GSI Consulting Services Inc., noted that it’s not specific to IT, and probably less than 50 per cent of firms currently employ such a practice. Usually it occurs in special circumstances, Black said, such as when a company wants to know how employees feel about a particular manager who is being considered for an executive role or partnership.

But, he added the practice shouldn’t be considered an automatic morale booster. “It’s more a magnifier or a multiplier,” Black said.

Lebanon, N.J.-based Nick Crocodilos, author and Web host of, said the practice is nothing new to organizations – most progressive firms do it on some level. “Usually it’s a routine HR kind of practice where the company wants to know how managers are perceived and how they’re performing from an employee standpoint,” Crocodilos said.

But the procedure does have merit and should be employed more often according to Lynne Heffel, a human resources coach and consultant for Edmonton-based HR Works Inc. Particularly because it is an effective way to stimulate employee-manager dialogue, Heffel said, it’s surprising it’s not widespread. “It’s very prevalent in the IT sector or any sector where the technical competencies override any of the essential soft skill competencies.”

But organizations are so strapped for resources right now, Heffel noted, that great ideas such as this particular one tend to get neglected. “It’s a best practice situation that was there years ago, we lost it, and we need to reinstate it,” Heffel said, adding that from a strategic point of view, manager reviews should be part of the company mandate.

Priscilla Tumbach, an HR manager at management consulting and systems integration firm Sierra Systems Group Inc. in Edmonton, said once projects are completed, project-end reviews should always take place. She added that managers should always be getting regular feedback – if an employee has a problem with a manager and can’t get it rectified, they will leave.

“People leave managers, they don’t leave organizations,” Tumbach said. “It’s so important that companies look at their managers.”

Regular manager reviews can reveal problems between the employee and manager – behavioural problems, poor communication, ill-defined goals – that normally wouldn’t come to light.

But it doesn’t happen a lot, and Crocodilos notes that it might not even be necessary. “Managers need to have regular discussions with their staff about the meta aspects of the business – How are we doing? How well are we working together? Are we accomplishing our goals? Do I define the work in a clear enough way so I can measure your performance? – a lot of good managers want to get that kind of feedback as well. Employees should be having regular dialogue on how things are going. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen in a lot of places,” Crocodilos said.