Performance Reviews in a Nutshell

For many managers, conducting performance reviews can create anxiety because of the potential for conflict with the employee. As mentioned in an earlier post on getting feedback, How am I doing?, the anxiety is probably partly due to our experiences as kids being graded. There’s much that can be written about performance reviews, this is the condensed version.

The best advice is to put yourself in the employee’s place (I’m sure you’ve had reviews at some point in your career). This is what most of us want to hear:

1.       What should I keep doing? (What’s working)

2.      What should I start doing? (What will improve things)

3.      How are the company and you as my boss, going to help me increase my value?

4.      What should I stop doing? (What’s not working) 

The delivery of the answers to these questions is where we as bosses can easily stumble into a rat hole, especially when forced to use a standard form or template. Here are some tips:

–          Focus almost entirely on the positives (#s 1-3 above). Understand how the employee’s competencies are aligned with the role’s responsibilities, and the value they bring to the team and company.

–          Increasing the employee’s value (#3), is not simply compensation based; it is the employee’s development which includes training, assignments, etc. Leave the compensation topic until the end of the meeting. (Reviews that are not immediately tied to compensation are very effective.)

–          Unless you have a problem employee, don’t introduce negative performance issues (#4), especially trivial ones, early in the meeting. Otherwise, that’s all the employee will dwell on. If you have a problem employee, address it through a performance improvement plan.

–          Don’t turn the review into a lecture. It should be a dialogue with the employee offering ideas for improving systems, processes and especially his competencies. 

Time constraints, salary freezes, and the aversion to conflict all contribute to not conducting reviews, which then tend to be “forced” by most corporate HR teams at least once a year. The best reviews are quick & frequent, and spaced through-out the year. Done so, the process becomes more about on-going performance management, and is seen by both manager and employee as a positive experience.

Further reading:

  1. How performance evaluations help employees, and how to conduct one (large amount of reference material from

2.   Performance management overview and resources (Mgmt Library).

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6 Responses to Performance Reviews in a Nutshell

  1. Thanks for this post. I don’t know a large number of links to forums but my friends seem to be able to spend a lot of time on them that’s for sure.

    • HR Advisor says:

      Thank you for the feedback. I’m hoping bossdepot can become a forum for bosses to share management and leadership stories and provide advice for others’ benefit.

  2. It appears to me that this web site doesnt load up on a Motorola Droid. Are other folks getting the exact same issue? I enjoy this blog and dont want to have to skip it whenever Im away from my computer.

    • HR Advisor says:

      Thanks for the info, Stacy. The site runs through WordPress which I thought worked on all mobile devices. I’ll look into it since Droid is quite popular.

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