How to Put People at the Center of Performance Reviews | by Vinita | Nov, 2022

Are you leaving employees unsatisfied and dissatisfied after a performance review? Here are 5 exercises to do a performance review well

When employees feel that they are undervalued or that their manager does not have knowledge of their true worth and value, it affects their performance and productivity.  They get hit hard by not being recognized for what they bring to the table – they see no point in taking on new challenges and opportunities or going the extra mile.  Performing a performance review well requires intention and effort, but done in the right way, it can yield a huge return on investment.
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Performance reviews are tough regardless of whether you’re giving or receiving it. Most employees are not motivated by performance reviews. Rather, its effects are just the opposite – resentment, confusion and a sense of favoritism creep into their heads.

When employees feel that they are undervalued or that their manager does not have knowledge of their true worth and value, it affects their performance and productivity. They get hit hard by not being recognized for what they bring to the table – they see no point in taking on new challenges and opportunities or going the extra mile.

For most managers, the task of meeting quarterly goals while providing performance reviews is overwhelming. They don’t work on it until the last minute and then struggle to put it together as the deadline approaches. There is no doubt that the quality of the reviews is affected and so does the people who are faced with it.

Employees who challenge their performance reviews are laid off – punished for speaking up, told to handle criticism well and focus on improvement. But doing bad work and not accepting it is a costly mistake – it not only drives employees to perform poorly, but it also undermines those who are doing well.

To make things better, you need to understand how people feel in response to what you do – Betty Johnson

Performing a performance review well requires intention and effort, but done in the right way, it can yield a huge return on investment. Here are five exercises that have worked well for me and my people.

Performance reviews become useless when employees aren’t clear about what they’re measured for or worse, there’s a gap between how you measure success and the way they perceive it.

That’s why it’s so important to align your company’s mission and goals with your team’s career aspirations and have a common measure of success. For doing this:

  • Define what you are measuring.
  • What value do you expect from them?
  • What skills do they need to build?
  • What is considered success and what is not?

Once you set clear goals and expectations, pair them with the right opportunities, and continuous feedback and support throughout the year. Your team will feel less stress and anxiety and so do you.

When a performance review feels like someone got a report card at school, all those negative feelings of not doing well come back. They remember being judged, told they are not good enough or being reminded of the limits of their skills and abilities.

Reviewing performance regarding inputs/outputs, keeping scores and pointing out flaws feels like getting a grade. You remind them of the teacher they hated so much in school.

Instead of having opinions and judgments, be empathetic, Don’t judge. Approach the discussion with curiosity. Here are the main things to remember:

  1. Instead of feeling helpless and hopeless about their situation, make them feel empowered to take action.
  2. Remind them that they are not limited by what they know today. Practice and persistence can help them build new skills.
  3. Talk about their achievements and how far they’ve come, talk about all the good things they do.
  4. Discuss reforms as opportunities for growth.
  5. encourage them to adopt mindset of a learner — What are they learning, how are they improving and how are they getting better every day.
  6. Don’t be vague. Give concrete examples of desired behaviors and actions. A great way to do this is to point out other people in the organization who are already doing it well. Getting to know others who exhibit it is a great opportunity to learn from them.

Receiving feedback sits at the intersection of these two needs – our desire to learn and our longing for acceptance – Sheila Hein

Converting performance reviews from a benchmark to a growth opportunity creates positive emotions – they will stop resisting feedback and start investing in their development.

Recency bias is one of the biggest culprits in the performance review process. It makes us give more importance to recent events as opposed to something that happened some time ago.

Putting too much emphasis on recent events because these experiences are fresh in your memory, you can give extra weight to these events, making performance reviews biased.

For example: Let’s say an employee made a mistake exactly one week before the review. While she was consistently doing well, since the mistake has been made recently, you can hold it against her in the review. Similarly, another employee who has performed well in recent deliveries may earn additional points, although their performance may not be up to the mark up to this point.

Yes, it is hard to believe that we are not completely rational in our daily decisions and actions. However, by recognizing that we are biased, realizing that we must question our choices, and stepping outside of our comfort zones, we are able to open our eyes to a new horizon – Ahmed Al Ansari

To avoid the effects of recency bias, do:

  1. Look at statistics from the past, not what comes easily to mind. To do this well, it is important that you keep a log of their performance throughout the year and do not rely solely on memory.
  2. Consciously question your assessment “Am I biased in my assessment based on recent events?”
  3. Ask “How much weightage do I give to their performance throughout the year as opposed to easy-to-remember things?”

Fairness in appraisal is a large component that determines whether employees see or oppose value in the process. By avoiding the effects of recency bias and other such biases (confirmation bias, fundamental attribution error) etc., you can at least try to be less impartial in your approach.

Managers’ biggest fear when sharing constructive criticism is the fear of losing the employee. We all know how expensive it is to lose them, hire their replacements, and speed them up.

This fear can often get in the way when it comes to sharing a realistic assessment of their performance. You can try to soften the message by telling them what you really have to say or by giving them false promises that you can’t keep.

Not telling employees what they need to hear — even though it may sound harsh and make them sad at first — prevents them from embracing constructive criticism and finding ways to improve it. Making false promises is even worse – they can lose trust or find you untrustworthy when they eventually have to come to terms with reality. For example: Don’t say things like “You’re most likely to be promoted in the next 6 months” if deep down you know it’s highly unlikely. Don’t say “you’ll get that opportunity” when you know someone else is more likely to get it.

The mistake most of us make in our critical conversations is that we believe we have to choose between telling the truth and having friends – Kerry Patterson

To share constructive criticism in a way that has been well received:

  1. Have feedback about their behavior and actions, don’t make it about them.
  2. Share your comments, not judgments.
  3. Help them link their response to concrete examples.
  4. Discuss steps they can take to build new skills and abilities.
  5. Ask if they see any gaps in the feedback or share a different opinion.

Be honest in terms of opportunities, performance and promotions. It’s better for your team to face the truth before despairing than not getting what they want later.

When you respond like a speech, you have no way of knowing how the person on the other hand received it – did they hear it, do they understand what you want to convey, how did they go about it. feel?

No matter how good you are at reframing, the single most important rule about managing conversations is this: You can’t move the conversation in a more positive direction until the other person is heard and understood. And as long as you listen they will not feel heard and understood. When the other person becomes overly emotional, listen and acknowledge it. When they say that their version of the story is the only version that makes sense, explain what you’re hearing and ask them a few questions about why they think that way. If they accuse you, try to understand their point of view before defending yourself. Whenever you feel overwhelmed or unsure how to proceed, remember that this is always a good time to listen – Douglas Stone

Performance reviews should be a two-way conversation, not a one-sided monologue.

  • Share feedback, but also take breaks in between listen to them,
  • Don’t make assumptions about what they heard, take the time to clarify if they understand.
  • Don’t fill the silence with words, embrace it to give them time to digest the information.
  • Ask what questions they have and how you can clarify them.
  • Be prepared to handle their feedback and show your support.

Taking the time to clarify, connect, and pay attention to what they have to say goes a long way in avoiding confusion and misunderstanding; It also builds trust that lasts.

A performance review can yield a great return on investment only when you stop treating it like a finish process and start putting your heart and mind into it.

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