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Employees Are More Likely to Consider Quitting After an Unfair Performance Review

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

Data shows that an unfair performance review could lead to your company losing valuable talent.

  • 92% of 1,000 U.S. workers polled want feedback about their job performance more frequently than once a year.
  • 85% would consider quitting their jobs if they felt their performance review was unfair.
  • 64% said they received helpful feedback from their performance evaluation.
  • This article is for managers and business owners who want to conduct fair employee reviews and maintain high employee morale.

Research shows that fair, frequent and accurate feedback from a higher-up is essential to employees. In fact, it’s so crucial that a vast majority of American workers whom people-management platform Reflektive polled in 2019 said they would leave a job if they received an “unfair” job review. 

Learn how employees feel about performance feedback and career growth, and how to conduct productive performance reviews. 

Study shows most employees contemplate quitting after an unfair review

Of the more than 1,000 U.S. employees polled in Reflektive’s survey, 85% said an unfair job review would push them to consider quitting altogether. Of that group, more than half said they were either “very likely” or “extremely likely” to entertain leaving the company.

When it comes to performance reviews, researchers found that accuracy is also important, as more than one-third of respondents said an inaccurate review was the “least likely [issue] to tolerate in the workplace.” If an incomplete review didn’t force the personnel to quit, 25% said they felt an inaccurate review caused a missed promotion.

These issues not only cause friction in the workplace, but could also affect your company’s bottom line, according to Rachel Ernst, former chief HR officer at Reflektive, now senior director of the people programs at Udemy.

“Employees crave accurate, growth-oriented feedback – and they don’t want to wait until an annual job review to get it,” Ernst explained. “When employees receive regular attention, recognition and guidance on how to improve from their managers, they tend to be more engaged and productive. They often stay with their employers longer and work harder, decreasing recruitment and retention costs.”

Did You Know?

Employees who feel valued have higher morale and better job performance.

Career growth matters almost as much as pay

Unsurprisingly, 58% of respondents said the most important factor they consider when choosing a new employer is how much they’ll be paid. The same percentage of respondents also said a company’s employee benefits packages and vacation allotments were also vital factors to consider. However, respondents concurred that career growth mattered nearly as much.

More than half of the participants said they needed both career growth opportunities and meaningful work when looking for a new job. Those numbers reflect other studies that show higher pay is nice, but other things contribute to an employee’s happiness.

While compensation is a significant factor in choosing one employer over another, low pay and a lack of promotions were among the top reasons respondents said they’d quit jobs in the past. In that same vein, of the 24% of respondents who said they wanted to quit their current jobs, 34% either said they wanted to leave because they “[didn’t] feel valued” or were “not being paid enough.” Another 31% said they wanted to leave because there were no chances to advance their career.


If money’s tight, find ways to keep employees happy without a raise. Offer flexible work policies and additional vacation time, and encourage them to pursue professional development.

Frequent feedback leads to happier workers

Knowing where they stand within a company – as well as how managers view the quality of their work and where they can improve – is incredibly important to workers. According to Reflektive’s survey, 92% of respondents said they “prefer to receive feedback more often than once a year.” 

Rather than hear about their performance yearly or quarterly, 49% said they would prefer to hear from their managers at least weekly, while 72% said they’d like monthly feedback.

Regarding their reviews, 64% reported they received “helpful feedback” because of the review process. Another 45% claimed they felt reviews gave them some “good face time” with managers, while 41% said reviews helped them understand “what they need to do to get promoted.”

However, reviews aren’t always held in high regard. Researchers found that 54% of respondents had been overlooked for a promotion for unknown reasons. Nearly one-quarter reported they were passed for a promotion because of inaccurate information on their performance review. Others cited additional causes for not receiving promotions, with 36% placing the blame on managerial changes and 28% blaming bias and favoritism.

Inaccurate performance reviews cause frustration

When employees believe their performance reviews are inaccurate, they can become disengaged. When this occurs, your staff are likely to quit or seek retaliation against their managers.

According to the study, 78% would retaliate by creating an “I quit” video for social media, 18% said they would “bad-mouth their co-workers, boss or company,” while another 12% planned on exposing company secrets.

“Creating a culture of feedback that implements a modernized performance review structure based on data helps to eliminate these costly problems,” Ernst added.

Did You Know?

When it comes to motivations for quitting a job, low pay is the top reason, followed by a lack of benefits, being overworked, and having a boss who doesn’t honor commitments.

How to set up recurring reviews

Follow these steps to incorporate regular employee reviews into your management style:

  1. Decide how often you want to give performance reviews. Although some employees might want weekly feedback, you likely don’t have the time every week for one-on-ones. Even squeezing them in once per month may feel challenging. Instead, consider striving for bimonthly reviews. This way, you don’t leave employees in the dark for long and still respect your schedule. However, if your personnel need to discuss a more time-pressing matter, communicate that your door is always open for an ad-hoc meeting.
  2. Create a recurring calendar event for both you and your staff. When you have so many other things to do, it can be easy to forget about specific tasks, including performance reviews. Once you’ve decided how often to give reviews, add a recurring event to your Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar. Invite the employee to the event so all performance reviews appear in both your schedules. You’ll never miss a review again, and you’ll have ample time to prepare to make the time together a productive one. [Learn more tips and tricks for using Google Calendar to your business’s advantage.]
  3. Include performance reviews in your employee handbook. Listing regular, recurring employee reviews in your employee handbook is an excellent way to make them official and consistent for all managers. An employee handbook section on performance reviews gives employees the power to ask for reviews if you forget. On your end, this section empowers you to provide feedback with employees as often as what’s necessary.

Best ways to provide an effective review

To give excellent performance reviews, which will minimize employee frustrations and departures, consider these tips:

  • Silence your biases. Among respondents to the 2019 Reflketive survey, 68% admitted favoritism impacted their performance reviews. Whether you like or dislike an employee should be independent of their work quality, so leave your personal feelings at the door. And if you have any other biases, you’ll need to ditch those for inclusive communication during – and long after – performance reviews.
  • Start with a team. Chances are, you think of performance reviews as one-on-one meetings. But for an employee’s first few performance reviews, you’ll want the HR team or other supervisors present. These extra hands can call out any biases you accidentally bring to the review and reassure the employee that the team has their back.
  • Make it a conversation. Your review should be a two-way conversation. Leave time for the employee to ask questions, and prompt them to give you feedback too. A simple “what will you need from us moving forward to do your best?” allows the employee to share their perspective and feel heard.
  • Use data. An employee might find your most negative feedback unfair if you can’t back it with data. Instead of just saying, “You’re spending too much time on this one task and not enough on another,” show it. Time-tracking tools or the best employee monitoring software can help you gather long-term data to substantiate your claims. (Read our SentryPC review for an example.)
  • Share both positive feedback and constructive criticism. A performance review isn’t a space solely for castigating an employee. You should also praise them for what they’re doing right. For example, maybe your employee who writes the best code is also frequently late to work. During your performance review, you should praise their code and kindly state that their lateness is a problem.
  • Work together toward solutions. Your review should end with a collaborative conversation about how the employee can improve, and revisit this solution at the next one. With the late employee example, perhaps a different schedule would work best – depending on what your company offers. Listen to what the employee feels is realistic, and then give yourself and the employee concrete steps to move forward.

How to appraise remote employees

Giving performance reviews for remote employees follows the same general tips as in-house staff, but there are some unique considerations. After all, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face conversation for showing how much you value your employees. Here’s how to effectively give regular remote performance reviews:

  • Utilize video conferencing. If you can’t be in person, seeing a face across the screen is the next best thing. With the best video conferencing services, you and your employee can read each other’s body language. And that’s a significant initial indication of how the employee feels about what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and your proposed improvements.
  • Reinforce company culture. Employees who work separately from the rest of the team might not get daily exposure to your company culture. They also might not be as tuned into your core values. A performance review is a perfect time to reinforce both concepts and connect them to the worker’s best and worst habits. As the employee keeps your culture and values in mind, their work should improve.
  • Offer assistance. Not every employee who works remotely prefers this style. During your review, you can help these employees minimize the obstacles they’re facing. Ask them how you can help, and then work with them on a solution. That’s a great way to help employees improve and feel like they’re right there with you.

Andrew Martins contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.

Image Credit: ArtFamily / Shutterstock
Max Freedman
Max Freedman
Contributing Writer
Max Freedman is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about small business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance and HR topics. He's also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. In addition to covering these business fundamentals, Max also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.