HR Management, Talent Management

Why We Need to Burn the Annual Performance Review: How to Fix It

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Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series (you can find Part 1 here) on why the annual performance review process needs to go away and what should be done instead. 

My first post highlighted why the annual performance review process is broken and why feedback should be given often — monthly or every two weeks — whatever works for the organization. It shouldn’t be overcomplicated with a bunch of forms and boxes to check off.

The discussion about performance should not take place at the same time we talk about pay raises either — unlink those conversations pronto! Business leaders, managers and HR needs to recondition their thinking and simplify this process.

The process is easy but can get screwed up if it’s not done right. I’m going to share a valuable tool that managers can use immediately to make this successful.

Put it in the third person

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” Now, picture yourself in your own performance review meeting with your manager. You keep hearing “you,” “you,” and “you,” throughout much of the conversation. How do you react? How much of the conversation are you actually hearing? How productive is this meeting for you and your manager?

Whenever we speak to someone in the first person and use the word “you” I guarantee that that person is not fully listening. Instead the listener is gearing up for how they’re going to respond and what they’re going to say next. When we talk in the first person to someone, especially if they’re already anxious, they’re going to become defensive – it’s human nature. And when this happens, the listener isn’t going to hear or retain anything else that’s being said.

I’d bet that most managers don’t do this right. Heck, most people don’t do this right.

When we’re having these one on one meetings, do this: picture the topic as an inanimate object sitting in front of you. This allows us to remove emotion from the conversation to make it more objective. When we keep the focus on the topic, we’re not pointing any fingers. For example:

  • Don’t:You missed three deadlines last month.”
  • Do: “Three deadlines were missed last month.

See the difference? Give it a shot and use this third person method the next time you’re having a conversation that you need to depersonalize.

Three things to remember

Don’t forget there are also different styles. These meetings are best when they’re casual and in a conversational style. Sit side by side, have the meeting over coffee or lunch, but avoid the boss sitting behind the desk scene.

Let’s recap:

  • Unlink the performance discussion from the discussion about any pay increase. (More on that in my final post!)
  • When we have these meetings more frequently, both managers and employees will get used to discussing work issues – even tough ones become easier to discuss.
  • When we use the third person, we instantly depersonalize the conversation – which means the meeting is productive and the employee will hear the message. AND…as a bonus, now we’re being objective — which really was our goal all along.

Stay tuned — the final post will cover what we need and want in performance reviews — how to be objective!

Read Part 1 of this series on Why We Need to Burn the Annual Performance Review.

Kimberly Roden is the founder of Unconventional HR. An HR pro turned consultant, she has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader in a variety of industries. Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology. Connect with her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Kimberly_Roden , or at kim@unconventionalhr.com .
  • MorganNorman

    Kimberly, great points. The perspective of the employee is not often considered (if at all), so the third person technique is a good way to avoid belittling your workers. Plus, as you said, performance reviews can be pretty intimidating for the employee. If the alternative of real-time feedback isn’t the preferred method, the least employers can do is have more informative conversations that focus on improving the performance of the employee, instead of putting a damper on it.