A performance review can make or break your working life. It’s supposed to be an honest and helpful appraisal of your work quality, but for one in four employees, it ends up being the single most dreaded meeting, according to the book Thanks for the Feedback. Even more ironic, a research paper in the Psychological Bulletin found that over 33% of performance reviews decreased employee performance instead of helping improve it.
So are employee performance appraisals even worth it and can they be helpful to your company? In a nutshell, yes. However, your performance appraisals will never add value to your employee and your company unless you learn to avoid the following bad habits.
Stop Being Too Vague
One of the least helpful things you can offer your employee, according to Forbes, is a brief appraisal that sprinkles in lots of generic phrases. Avoid the following phrases:
- Keep it up
- You’re doing good work
- You need to work harder
These statements do not contain actionable items for improvement or steps to stay on the right track.
Instead, break down the specifics of what you like and don’t like about your employee. “Keep showing up to work on time every day and submitting your assignments within your deadlines.”
End Dishonesty and Feedback Inflation
You can’t afford to be too nice to your employee. They need to know your true feedback. Over-evaluation gives your employees a false sense of security in their work efforts and provides a basis for inconsistency. Don’t say, “You’re great. I can’t think of anything you need to work on.” No employee is perfect, and as Business Week mentions, when you begin your evaluation at the top, it’s psychologically much more difficult to decrease the evaluation as needed.
Instead, all feedback should be an honest evaluation that measures your employee’s performance based on specific goals. List each employee goal and then decide if it was met, exceeded, or failed. Once you know how they achieved or did not achieve the goal, provide concrete examples that back up your decision, and offer steps for improvement.
Shun Numbers and Rankings
It’s a bad idea to tell your employee, “As a sales leader, you ranked three out of five overall.” An interview in the Washington Post of a former chief talent officer for a $16.2-billion company stated, “Ratings detract from the conversation. If an employee is sitting there waiting for the number to drop, they’re not engaged.” A number or rank does not help your employee improve or change; it just ties their self-worth to an arbitrary value.
Instead, focus each performance review on practical, real-world suggestions for improvement or praise of their performance. Tie your employee’s worth to a job well done and not a number.
Don’t Go in Unprepared
Show your employee that you have paid attention to their work and recognized their contribution. Asking the question, “What have you done over the last six months?” gives the impression that you weren’t watching your employee, according to The Essential Performance Review Handbook. Employees want to know that their efforts matter.
Instead, when it comes to review time, be prepared with a list of concrete examples you wish to discuss from the last months of work. It’s important to open up the discussion, but be specific, such as, “What was your greatest accomplishment during the last project with client XYZ?”
If you want your employee performance reviews to help instead of harm, focus on developing your employees. A review that is too vague, too nice, too numbers focused, or improvised does nothing but create anxiety for all parties involved. If instead you want to bring about positive change, it’s time to look at performance reviews as opportunities to provide practical solutions to recognized problems.