Employee performance rituals
are an annual event at most companies, are generally dreaded by
employers, and simultaneously dreaded by most
employees. Employee performance reviews are the time of year
when you either get praise or criticism or both, and they
determine how much if any the employee will be able to improve
their personal financial position over the next year.
reviews can also be a way of legally protecting yourself in the
event of an employee lawsuit or if you need to fire someone.
However, employee reviews can be used to effectively communicate
with an employee about issues and areas to improve on, without the
catalyst of having something go wrong... and then having to work
through the emotions of the moment.
Performance Reviews That Actually Improve
by: Jan B. King
Employee performance reviews are one of the most dreaded tasks by
most managers. It is hard to win here – you can never say enough
good things, and one word of criticism is generally the only thing
they will remember.
Taking the easy way out and just documenting the positive will
cause you a lot of trouble if you ever need to fire the employee.
The only way this ever gets better is with a lot of practice, and
a pretty thick skin. Think about it this way: a bit of feedback that
no one else has the guts to give a poor performer might turn around
their whole career. Deliver the negative – you have to – but
make sure the employee knows there are things they can do about it.
For more effective performance reviews, prepare at the time of hire
by giving all employees copies of the review forms you use in their
orientation packet. An employee who knows how she will be reviewed
will direct his behavior accordingly from the beginning of his
employment and will probably do all she can to be sure he has good
In fact, an employee should have copies of all survey and review
material that he will encounter over the course of his employment.
The perception is what you measure is what you care about. Give a
description of how often you use each evaluation tool and how. This
is particularly important if your company does 360 degree
performance reviews. The purpose of reviews is not to trap
employees, but to give them the tools to do their best for the
company. Accordingly, your review forms should be created very
carefully and should cover actions specific to his skills and
responsibilities as well as his people skills with peers and
I always do reviews in two parts. The first part is for the
employee to fill out two weeks ahead of the actual review meeting.
It asks questions like these:
- What could I do to make your work more productive?
- What equipment or training do you need to do your best work
that you don't have?
- What could the company change (or add or delete) that would
help you do your work better?
- What skills and abilities do you have that you think are
- Any other comments or opinions you would like to express?
I have always found that getting an employee to express their
feelings first, not only lets them know that you really are
interested in their feedback, it also often results in their letting
you know what they think their weaknesses are – meaning you
don’t have to be the first to bring these things up.
Most employees really want to do good work. And if you think an
employee isn’t really there to do good work, you shouldn’t be
reviewing them, you should be letting them go.