Sam Culbert: Hachette Speakers Bureau

Sam Culbert

Management Guru

A professor at the prestigious UCLA Anderson School of Business, Dr. Samuel Culbert is widely recognized as an expert on human interactions in the workplace – and especially the relationship between bosses and their subordinates. In his groundbreaking, and widely cited, article in The Wall Street Journal that appeared on October 20, 2008, Culbert spoke out loud what most of us have known in our guts for years: that the annual corporate performance appraisal is a destructive force that wreaks havoc in corporations. Befitting his nickname as “Dr. Straight Talk,” Culbert minced no words in calling for an end to the performance review.

In his book, Get Rid of the Performance Review: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing – And Focus On What Really Matters, Culbert joins forces with Wall Street Journal senior editor Lawrence Rout to make a more detailed and forceful case for killing the annual review. Tearing apart every argument advocates make for using reviews, Culbert reveals why reviews are not objective, why they destroy incentive and honesty in the workplace, how they undermine teamwork, why they keep employees from ever reaching their true potential, and how they ultimately damage the bottom line. And he explains how this sorry system continues despite an almost universal understanding of its fatal flaws. (Hint: Human Resources departments are going to have a lot of defending to do when this book comes out.)

Culbert also makes it clear that performance reviews are emblematic of something much bigger, much more insidious in the workplace. Quite simply, it’s an indictment of the way managers manage. Or rather, mismanage. Because the truth is that most managers haven’t a clue how to manage, but know only how to intimidate. And as long as the relationship at work is between the intimidating boss and a resentful, repressed subordinate, work will be a miserable place where everyone loses—most especially the company.

But Culbert does more than tear down the current system. He does more than tell us what’s wrong. He also provides audiences with a solution: The performance preview.

What a difference that one letter can make. With performance previews, the focus isn’t on what subordinates do wrong. Instead, it’s on what the boss and subordinate can together do right. The focus isn’t on bosses telling subordinates what the subordinates need to do. It’s about how each of them can help each other to get the company what it needs. The focus isn’t on intimidating subordinates to say what they think the boss wants them to say. It’s about getting them to speak honestly about what is required to get the job done. Most important, the performance preview accomplishes what the review alleges to accomplish -- but never will. We’re talking about feedback, accountability and results.

Throughout his career Culbert has developed a blunt yet sensitive way of framing situations that allows for all parties to engage in open, non-judgmental discussions. He believes that only by laying bare ALL the forces that drive people’s opinions and actions -- including subjective, self-interested and political biases -- is it possible to have an explicit, honest, yet matter-of-fact conversation.

Culbert’s experience has creatively welded together three activities: consulting, teaching, and writing. Consulting is where he encounters work effectiveness problems in their contemporary forms, demystifies the basic elements, and formulates alternative modes of functioning. Teaching provides a forum for extrapolating from problems to issues requiring his investigation. Writing is where he packages his understanding for public consumption. His clients include a diverse representation of the private and public sectors: small companies and members of Fortune’s 500, international and U.S. governmental agencies, privately funded and not-for-profit organizations. In short, Culbert has been around and gets what’s happening. His unconventional views have received a great deal of press, both in the U.S. and overseas.

Culbert’s other authored and co-authored books include Beyond Bullsh*t: Straight Talk at Work; The Organization Trap; The Invisible War: The Pursuit of Self-Interests at Work; Radical Management: Power, Politics, and The Pursuit of Trust; Mind-Set Management: The Heart of Leadership, and Don’t Kill the Bosses! SmartMoney Magazine named Beyond Bullsh*t to its 2008 list of ten top reads. He is winner of a McKinsey Award for an article published in the Harvard Business Review, is a frequent contributor to management journals and has authored numerous chapters in leading management-related books.

Prior to assuming his UCLA post Culbert was Program Director for Organization Studies at The NTL Institute of Applied Behavioral Sciences and an adjunct Professor at The George Washington University. He holds a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA.

Interested in booking Sam Culbert to speak at your next event?

Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau.


  • Get Rid of the Performance Review!
  • How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing -- and Focus on What Really Matters

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