Employee performance reviews that work

The Seven Fundamentals of ManagementWhy is it so few managers look forward to doing employee performance reviews?

It really doesn’t have to be that way.

A performance review is one of the best tools a manager has to fine tune the performance of subordinates.

A performance review should be a or recap of the day-to-day engagements between managers and employees. It should always include a plan for the employee’s professional growth.

It is not about money. Pay raises are about money.

It is not about filling out forms. Audits and inspections are about filling out forms.

Employee performance reviews are about feedback. It is a conversation about how much meaning a manager can create with an employee.

No performance review can be successful unless the manager has already given good feedback and direction regularly throughout the year, making assessments and adjustments along the way, and building rapport and confidence with the employee.

Only then can it all be successfully summarized into a useful, forward-looking review.

At its best, the review is the culmination of the interactions between the manager and the employee throughout the year.

If a manager has been saving things up for months to spring on an employee all at once, that’s a performance review that won’t be helpful. In fact, it’ll probably do more harm than good.

Similarly, if a manager only sees performance reviews as necessary to complete a personnel file,  the battle for better employee performance if lost before it’s even begun.

Simply going through the motions of an annual performance review is like dieting one day out of the year and wondering why you’re not losing weight.

Motivating and developing people is one of the highest strategic tasks that managers and supervisors can undertake.

Yet despite their importance, performance reviews remain the one critical development area many managers say they just can’t get enough help with.

Too many managers not prepared

 Why is it that employee performance reviews are fraught with emotional snares and pitfalls?

Perhaps it’s because employees are just like anybody else – they don’t like hearing about their shortcomings. That’s just human nature.

And they sure don’t like seeing their shortcomings written down on paper and stored away in a file someplace for others to read.

Fact is, few managers enjoy even bringing up those shortcomings.

And on top of that, honest feedback – the only kind that matters – requires a balance of candor and sensitivity.

Who can pull that off every day?

The main reason performance reviews fail is because managers fail to properly prepare.

Often, it’s because the manager has failed to engage the employee, day to day, throughout the time leading up the review.

Then, the manager fails to think through how a review can be created that sets attainable goals for the employee and makes the job meaningful.

That leaves the manager to fumble through the review, creating confusion and sending the message that the review isn’t that important to the manager, either.

Here are seven other reasons why employee performance reviews fail. If any of these situations apply, then it’s a great place to start improving your own performance review skills.

  1. The manager and employee are friends and cannot separate friendship outside of work with manager/employee relationship.
  2. The employee is hearing negative feedback for the first time during the review. Employees should never be surprised by the information they’re given during the review process.
  3. Reviews are scheduled only when employees are struggling and facing possible firing. The employee already sees the review as the “enemy.”
  4. The review is sugar-coated for whatever reasons and doesn’t truly reflect the employees work/position/abilities.
  5. Some employees get reviews and others never do.
  6. Goals and expectations are not clear, or not realistic.
  7. Managers try to measure performance in abstract terms, such as attitude, motivation or dependability, and ignore concrete measures.

This is the third in a series of articles on the 7 fundamentals of management. To see the other articles, please go to The 7 fundamentals of management page.


  1. Thomas Christin says:

    I agree 100%. Supervisors, Managers and Executives do not utilize a performance review as a business development tool, they think that the only purpose for an employee evaluation is tailored to a pay raise, which is totally the opposite. Employees want to know where they stand within the organization, what career growth opportunities are available for them, areas of improvement, etc.; it is vital in developing an engaged business culture and creating a great place to work atmosphere.

  2. Besides managers being properly trained in “How to give a PA”, the employee must also be trained in “How to Receive a PA’.

  3. Most companies conduct employee performance reviews yearly. Some employers find it pointless or not working at all. However, if you conduct it efficiently and professionally, for sure, it will work better than you expected. Reading this article might help you know some employee performance reviews that will work. Moreover, the employee performance reviews helps your employee and and your company as well.

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