Ah, who doesn’t love a performance review? The only thing better than getting one is giving one, right? … Kidding, of course. I’ve seen them done really well, and really poorly, so I wanted to share a few of the key takeaways I’ve collected over the years for what managers should – and should not – do. As a coach and trainer for aspiring and new managers, I feel this is a critical topic to cover, and would be glad to work with anyone individually on this if the blog inspires you. Ready? Let’s get to it…


The “Dos”


Make notes of your employee’s performance throughout the year – especially the positives.

Why? Because the negatives do more damage than the positives do “good,” so to speak; in other words, you’re going to have a much easier time remembering what they did wrong than what they did right. (Check out this NYT article if you’re interested in more about that.) In fact, the ideal ratio of positive to negative feedback you give should be a whopping 5.6 to 1, according to one HBR article! In my experience, that volume of positives takes a lot of intentional work to collect. I personally used an email folder for this purpose when I was a manager. Whenever I noticed something good the employee had done, I either moved the related email into that folder, or I sent an email to myself with the information and then put the email in the folder (and mentioned to the employee in person). You could use any system that works for you, but make sure you’re capturing those moments. It makes the annual review a breeze – not to mention fair and accurate – when you’ve been collecting data all year, and having specific examples of accomplishments gives a very strong defense of your overall score or bottom line to HR.


Invite their feedback.

If you’re cringing at this thought, hear me out – I’m not saying to flip the review onto yourself. I do think, however, that it speaks volumes of you if you dedicate time to ask how the employee feels things are going. Can the team improve in dynamics, efficiency, or otherwise? Does your employee have the resources they need to do their job appropriately? Do they feel appreciated? Can you tweak anything you’re doing as their manager to help them do their job better? Employees are very hesitant to give this type of feedback without being asked, and you don’t want to miss out on a simple piece of information that could help productivity. In my experience, employees greatly appreciated this gesture – even to the point of feeling proud of where they work – so make sure you allocate time for them to speak their mind during the review. Quite the small cost for boosted employee engagement!


Acknowledge their skills and contributions, including the ones unrelated to the job.

Employees need to feel appreciated for their efforts. So what if being a good writer isn’t in their job description? Maybe that skill came in handy the other day when you ran an email by them before sending it. If a skill or gift has served them well in their role, or done anything positive for the company at all, acknowledge them for it. I have found that employees respond best to feedback when it is framed in a way that appreciates them for what they do best or who they are, AND what they can do better (or continue doing well) about the job itself. No job description perfectly describes any one employee’s gifts or actions, so framing the review this way makes them more open to feedback.


Explore their interests in growth opportunities.

Don’t forget to focus on the future while you’re busy thinking about the past year! Prior to the meeting, ask the employee to come prepared with some goals in mind for the upcoming year, as well as next steps in their career trajectory. Take time during and after the meeting to demonstrate your support of these goals (e.g., connect them to relevant people, help them find a class to take, share a book you read, etc.) This helps the employee feel valued by both you and the company, and acknowledges that they – not you – dictate their career path. Bonus: watch out for “canned” answers. If you’ve successfully created a psychologically safe environment for your employees, they will feel more comfortable talking about their futures outside your team or company. In my experience, this candid conversation makes them much more likely to want your company to be part of their path (read: reduces turnover) when they see that you want to help them get where they want to go. Be clear what the next steps in their career path might look like, and clarify what milestones you’d like to see them achieve to be considered for promotion.


Next week, I’ll address the “don’ts” of performance reviews for managers. Stay tuned, and in the mean time, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

If you’d like to chat more about your individual situation, I’d be glad to help; simply book at time to chat with me.

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