18 True Tales of Ridiculous Performance Appraisals

 “Your greatest strength… your listening abilities. well, there might not actually be anything going on in your head, but you SEEM like you’re listening,” this is a direct quote from a performance review, sent to me by Reflektive, a people management company.

It’s performance review season–many companies do an annual review in December, so October is when people start thinking about writing them. If you’re a manager, you want the reviews to be helpful for your employees. Additionally, never write anything you’re not willing to stand behind in a lawsuit.

Whatever you do, don’t use the following examples from people’s true experiences. Reflektive shared the following three with me as well:

  • Higher level position years ago – boss spent 70% of PR talking about her husband, 30% was in-the-weeds process recommendations like: “If a team member removed paperclips from incoming documents that’s a big process improvement. Useless info!

To read the other ridiculous appraisals, click here: 18 True Tales of Ridiculous Performance Appraisals

Leave your own in the comments!

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17 thoughts on “18 True Tales of Ridiculous Performance Appraisals

  1. My favorite was being told I appeared inattentive during meetings. Um, yes, I replied.

    These were regular 12-18 person meetings that lasted an hour, of which only 5 minutes were relevant to me or my team. I have an unprofessional epithet for these substitutes-for-real-work. My approach: I would bring my laptop and do my regular work during such funfests. And I didn’t pretend most of the meeting was riveting preening.

    So when I was called down by my boss. I just asked one question: do I ever not respond or fail to interject appropriately to relevant topics during the meetings?

    Um, no, he responded.

    Than I fail to see the problem, I stated.

    He gave his usual response: you need to learn to play the game.

    I found a better game about a year later. With very few meetings.

  2. I was told I had far too much biased language in my analysis reports. I asked for examples. Was told “go back and read through them and you’ll see what I mean”. I wrote one whole report that whole year. It was all financial figures and dates.

    But, yes, if I’m being truthful, I’ve always hated the number 9. I just didn’t realize how much it showed…

  3. The orders to smile and to be less direct in speaking turn up often in women’s evaluations. “Somebody said they didn’t like your facial expression” sounds suspicious too. Some of my female coworkers used to joke with me about getting “you need to be more direct” and “you need to be less direct” on alternating years’ evaluations because one can’t be appropriately assertive and still be unthreateningly demure in some offices.

    1. Best “comment” complaint I used to get was that my “tone ” of voice was off and gave a wrong impression to the listener. When asked for clarification, the comment would revert to facial expression as an explanation. I outlasted that negative reviewer complainer who got fired for overuse of personal time off.

  4. I had a review from a boss who subscribed to the theory that all reviews must have at least some bad things in them, and was told didn’t answer the phone right because (among other things) I identified myself as soon as I picked it up. And a flat refusal to tell me how I should answer it, like, say, a script (which *is* provided to the folks out in the stores).

    But the best one was the guy who fired me for taking a lunch. Literally one day after chewing me out for not taking a lunch.

  5. I need the diagram of optimal thumb tack placement. I volunteer at my local library and am in charge of the public bulletin boards (which is more dramatic that it should be!). We have had complaints about the way I post flyers . . .

  6. Great manager of 5 years left, replaced by Satan’s dufus little brother. Very good reviews for 5 years. Suddenly, I talked too loudly on the phone. I ignored a manager who needed to speak with me (he popped his head in my doorway, saw I was on the phone with a client, nodded and came back at a later time). I didn’t care enough to come to work at 7am instead of 7:30 and left at 5:30/ 6:00 instead of 7pm (hours were 8-5). I dressed too loudly (“like an Easter egg” I was told- too many bright colors. My suits btw were professional and tailored deep purple, navy blue, black, etc). This was one performance review. I started looking elsewhere for employment after that. Right before I left, I was handed a written warning for “my poor attentin to detail.” Yes, he had misspelled ‘attention’ on my poor attention to detail write up, which had no examples attached to it either. Thankfully found another job after that. Turns out he wanted me gone so he could hire his friend’s recently graduated daughter. And we work in HR by the way.

  7. I was fired without the indignity of a performance review. Working in documentation, I created a suite of 5 nearly identical manuals (changing only the product name – easy in FrameMaker). One snowflake engineer demanded his own version AND, my variable word choice for “computer” was deemed unprofessional. This name swapping was on purpose to keep the reader from sleeping. At the request of senior management, I created the snowflake manual (should I mention the product was NEVER released?) On the second pass, after creating a new manual with custom pagination, the idiot engineer reviewed the original manual a second time, not the corrected version. I was fired because the engineer could not read the date and version number.

  8. My favorite? I was told I was “too polite” in my interactions with others. When I asked for an example of how I could improve, I was told to “say please and thank you less often.” It was another long year before I could get out of there.

  9. A somewhat more upbeat example: I once got a performance review that included “You need to dress more professionally.” I do field work, and occasionally come into the office in field cloths (jeans, t-shirt, safety vest, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, etc) because I was doing my job. Apparently that wasn’t acceptable.

    Best part was, my interviewer was in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers at the time, while I was in business casual. My response was simply to look at him, at which point he burst out laughing and said “Hey, I just have to read it.” (Someone else submitted the review, anonymously, and he was obliged to discuss it with me.)

    I still work for the company. In fact, the same person is my manager. He’s a good guy, and after an effort on my part I’ve established a better relationship with the folks who gave me the review.

  10. Just had my end of year appraisal for a large multinational company….

    The entire thing is pointless. I was told that no one could score over a 3 (out of 5) this year because we had too much change to cope with (x3 different managers in the year!). I over exceeded all my targets and spent £40k less than the previous year to achieve this. I feel a bit like companies of a certain size use them as a means of not giving people the pay rises they deserve. A previous example is being told that “we can’t increase your salary this year as you only scored a 3 on your end of year”.


  11. I was told I “use big words that make people feel stupid.”

    When I asked for an example, my boss could not give me any. When I asked who had said this, my boss would not say.

    A co-worker laughed at this story and said our boss was talking about himself.

  12. A former supervisor cited “attendance issues” on my performance review because I used my vacation time in small increments (half-day here, full-day there). I never missed meetings or deadlines, and was available by phone or text 24/7.

    There’s a place on the form for a rebuttal, so I said, “if my supervisor had any problems with my use of vacation time/attendance, the time to bring it up, was when signing my time sheet every other week” (this had never been brought up as a problem, and was clearly a “reach” by someone who was trying to distract from their own incompetence.)

  13. The diagram of optimal thumbtack placement reminds me of the time my review included the fact that I had had to be taught how to paperclip pieces of paper together correctly.

    I am not kidding. At this company, you had to put the larger loop of the paperclip in the front and the smaller loop in the back. The person who told me this was astonished that I did not already know this. And that’s why it was on my review—I should have known this vital office skill before going to work there.

    Ever since quitting that job, I have been the world’s most random paperclipper.

  14. I was given straight “3”‘s on a 1-5 scale because the person I reported to did not understand my job or duties. This is what happens when the department leadership does not share your professional specialty. When I asked what I could do to improve, he said he did not know. At this point I was past caring about what they thought as I was job seeking and had a new one in 2 months.

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