Take the Anxiety out of Performance Reviews

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Mention performance reviews in any office and you’ll get a litany of horror stories. Furious workers blind-sided with surprise criticism. Unfair appraisals tied to raises. Bosses giving everyone the same results to keep the peace. From the employee: Anger. Frustration. Anxiety. From the boss: Hesitation. Delay. Anxiety.

And yet, the calls from the HR department to those same bosses keep coming … prompting them to stick to the review schedule.

Performance rating and appraisal formWe’re all sensitive to judging and being judged. Yet, this system of rating employees’ work continues to be pressed upon bosses. BECAUSE … HR departments rely on fair assessments to make any pay changes and to ensure equal treatment of all employees. Also, in the rare case of a legal claim for unfair or discriminatory work practices, reviews could be used as proof of no discrimination—by pulling records of employees in the same or similar positions.

HR needs aside, we spend a lot of time on a process that makes EVERYONE involved uncomfortable. And we’re missing a distinctly positive reason for employee evaluations: Open dialog to chart an employee’s career growth.

Two businessmen wearing blue shirts on job interviewIn a sea of negative reactions when I posed the question with a group of friends, one positive experience emphasizes the point. This individual referred to a particular review that started with this simple question: “What would you like to accomplish in the next year and how can I help?” Brilliant. This question starts a conversation. Rather than a one-sided lecture, it turns the appraisal on its head and makes the discussion about growth and development, rather than judgement and rating scales. And aside from HR’s needs, isn’t employee growth what we’re really looking for?

If your performance appraisals seem a little one-sided (aren’t leading to discussion) and aren’t helping employees reach peak performance, here are some questions to help you switch gears:

  1. What accomplishments are you most proud of? (From yourcareerintel.com)
  2. What can I do to help you do your job better? (From yourcareerintel.com)
  3. Congratulations on achieving Y. That’s exceptional work—how did you accomplish this result? (From businessinsider.com)
  4. Is there anything you think you could have done better or differently this past year to optimize results? (From businessinsider.com)
  5. Where do you see your greatest potential for growth and improvement? (From businessinsider.com)
  6. Are there tools or resources that would help you do your job better? (From punchedclocks.com)
  7. What’s your biggest challenge right now? (From teamgantt.com)

Question mark heap on table concept for confusion, question or solutionWhen most of us think about employee performance reviews, we think about judgement. We think about scales from 1 to 5. We think about shortcomings ….

Using questions to structure your reviews gives you a better ROI, involves the employee more and removes some of the anxiety. It doesn’t eliminate a manager’s need for preparation. And it does mean you’ll need to address shortcomings and mistakes as they happen (but you’re probably doing that anyway, right?)

 judge GIF

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