Unfair Performance Reviews and Workplace Stress


Many employers require all employees to undergo periodic performance reviews in which a manager evaluates an employee's recent performance in his job. Although some of these reviews are conducted purely for an employee's own edification, others are important in determining an employee's future in the company. Some performance reviews affect whether an employee will enjoy a promotion, and others might affect the size of an employee's compensation -- making unfair reviews a subject of stress.

Unfair Performance Reviews

  • Performance reviews can be unfair by being either overly praising or being overly critical. When an employee is unfairly praised in a performance review, his coworkers might feel cheated. This can lead to greater stress, both in the form of conflict between employees and in a drop in moral. Similarly, being the subject of an unfair review can make an employee feel badly and can cause concern among his coworkers, who fear that they, too, might receive such a review.

Workplace Stress

  • Poor performance reviews can directly lead to workplace stress in several ways. First, unfair evaluations can undermine confidence in an organization's leadership, raising the question of what other ways the leadership is failing. Second, employees might fear that their work will not be fairly evaluated. This might lead them to perform work in ways designed to enhance their chances of receiving a favorable review, not in completing the jobs assigned them or enhancing the company.

Stress-Poor Performance Cycle

  • Sometimes, workplace stress, brought on by an unfairly negatively performance review, can cause the performance of employees to suffer. This might precipitate a spiral in which employees' performance declines further, triggering more negative performance reviews, triggering a further decline in performance, etc. In such a case, performance reviews accomplish the opposite of their intended effect -- to provide employees with the feedback necessary to improve their performance.


  • There are several ways of dealing with unfair performance reviews. One is to appeal the review to another manager or a figure with the power to change the ways in which reviews are conducted. Generally, the more employees who can sign off on a complaint about the method by which one or more reviews were conducted, the more effective the petition will be. In addition, an employee might wish to approach the human resources department.


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