Feb 12, 2024 - Technology

Managers, employees turn to ChatGPT to write performance reviews

Illustration of a robot hand in a suit giving a thumbs up

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Performance reviews can win you a raise or get you laid off — and managers and employees alike are turning to ChatGPT to write them.

Why it matters: The sensitive work of writing your own self-assessment, or reviewing the work of an employee who reports to you, has become so daunting or monotonous that some would rather turn it over to AI.

What's happening: It's been over a year since ChatGPT became a household name and though the excitement over its magic has begun to wane, people are increasingly using it for all sorts of critical tasks.

  • If you ask manager friends, you'll probably find at least one may have taken this shortcut with performance reviews.
  • A brief search of X, LinkedIn, or Reddit will show you scores of people bragging about it.

What they're saying: A former manager at Dropbox (who asked to remain anonymous) says she has used ChatGPT to help write performance reviews for direct reports and peers because, she tells Axios, the review process at big tech companies can be "exhausting," "tedious" and "bureaucratic."

  • She also used it to write her self reviews, "particularly when I know that my manager is busy, far away from the day to day and I'm assessing my own performance as 'meets expectations,'" she added.
  • Lee Gonzales, director of engineering at BetterUp, uses ChatGPT to write performance reviews and also shares his own performance review prompts for ChatGPT on LinkedIn.
  • Stephen Lytle, assistant vice president of people and culture at Evara Health, puts his own meeting notes into ChatGPT along with the person's self evaluation and feedback he's gotten from other people. And then he tells ChatGPT, "synthesize this into an effective evaluation."
  • Nick, a product manager at a tech company who asked us not to use his last name, told Axios that he sees performance reviews as "bookkeeping," and he uses ChatGPT to write them because he doesn't see them as affecting his compensation or his opportunity for promotion.

Yes, but: ChatGPT might save you time, but it won't do everything for you.

  • Gonzales told Axios he takes copious one on one notes throughout the year and then feeds them into the enterprise version of ChatGPT to get what he calls a "shitty first draft" of a performance review. Then he edits from there.
  • "Never, ever, ever, ever take what comes out of these models as the truth," Gonzales says. "They make stuff up. They confabulate."
  • The former manager from Dropbox agrees. "Not reviewing, iterating and editing an AI response is lazy," she says.

The big picture: Management experts have argued for years that the annual review process is imperfect. And the pandemic, back and forth return-to-office wars, fights over DEI, quiet quitting and waves of layoffs haven't helped.

  • Gonzales told Axios that generative AI can help with the kinds of "pathologies" he sees with performance reviews, which "actually don't produce better performance."
  • "I try and use this as a thinking tool to help me create a summative piece that is oriented around growth, looking forward, calling out the good." Then he sits down and talks to the person about it.
  • Lytle says AI can reduce "the administrative burden" of writing evaluations without eliminating "the feeling of making somebody feel good and recognized for what they did" or "challenging somebody to improve and be better next year."

Between the lines: Writing is hard — and many find producing long-form performance reviews painful and even cringe-worthy, especially if you're writing about yourself.

  • Several managers who said they used ChatGPT found that it lifted the terror of staring at a blank page.
  • "Not everybody has a college degree. Not everybody has a high school diploma, not to mention a doctorate. Not everybody is taught how to write annual evaluations," Lytle says.

The bottom line: If you use generative AI to produce your performance review (or any content), don't expect to go unnoticed.

  • Gonzales told Axios that he can spot content written by ChatGPT all over LinkedIn and blogs and in magazines. "I find ChatGPT writing is visible from space for me now."
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