AQ Speaks HR – The Pain of Performance Review Season

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In many work places, managers and employees dread “Performance Review” season, like parents with school aged children dread cold and flu season! For several work places, December and January are common months when annual employee performance reviews must be completed.

Why it is that managers and employees both dread this important activity? What goes wrong? What can managers and employees do to make this activity less stressful and more effective?

Why Managers and Employees Dread Performance Reviews

A misunderstood process

Often the reasons for conducting performance reviews are not well communicated and understood across the organization. The process is seen as a “necessary evil” with little effort taken to ensure that both managers and their staff understand how this process contributes to the overall effectiveness of the department, the team and to the success of the organization as a whole.

A disconnected process

In many instances employees fail to see how their day to day activities and performance are directly linked to the satisfaction of internal and external customers and therefore to the success and future of the organization.

Lack of commitment to the process

Leadership must demonstrate their commitment and support for the process. They must ensure that the process is followed and applied consistently across the organization. Employees and managers will lose confidence and respect for the process if some areas of the organization or some managers do not follow the established process and timelines.

 Five Common Things that go wrong!

#1- The “successes” or the” less than stellar” aspects of performance, that occur in the weeks and days immediately before the performance review often dominate the assessment.

#2- Neither the manager nor the employee have had meaningful discussions about performance since the last formal performance review, often a year earlier.

#3- The manager has stored up issues and concerns about employee performance that have arisen over the past year and figuratively dumps them onto the table during the annual review.

#4- The manager has not been trained in how to prepare for and conduct an effective performance review.

#5-  The manager has a tendency to be “too harsh”, “too soft” or safe by just rating everyone in the middle in their review of employee performance.

What Managers and employees can do to make the process less stressful and more effective?

Tips for Managers

#1-Learn and follow the process, activities and time lines for your organizations’ performance review activities.

#2- Don’t wait. Provide positive recognition of employee performance and contributions throughout the year!

#3- Don’t save up concerns about employee performance to “spring” them on the employee during the review.

#4-  Use the performance review process to set meaningful goals for employee performance and development in the year ahead.

#5- Keep in mind that you are reviewing the “performance” of the employee and not their personality or popularity.

Tips for Employees

#1-Come with an open mind. Be prepared to actively listen and accept constructive criticism and suggestions.

#2- Come prepared with solutions, ideas and suggestions to improve your performance.

#3- Make it easy. Do your homework and prepare to objectively present information about your accomplishments, achievements and shortcomings.

#4- Advise your manager of workplace problems, issues and concerns when they occur throughout the year.

#5-Make sure that you communicate successes and accomplishments over the year as they occur, don’t wait for the annual performance review.

When executed well, the performance assessment process can be extremely valuable for employers and employees.  Take the time to develop and implement a robust performance management process that will motivate and develop your workforce and drive results.

Mike A. Cuma is Vice President Human Resources and Labour Relations with Pinnacle. You can email Mike at  These are the views of the author and not necessarily that of AQ Group Solutions.