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Jun 22, 2015

Employee performance reviews have earned a bad rap, so much so that the review process is dreaded by employees and employers alike.

What used to be a staple in every workplace is now being criticized for being a waste of time and hurting workplace morale.

In fact, more than half (58 percent) of the executives surveyed by Deloitte in a recent study believe their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance. From intimidating conversations to inefficient review methods to outdated performance management systems, the performance appraisal is dying — but it’s not dead yet.

It’s not the performance review that’s the problem; it’s how we’re conducting those reviews.

When conducted the right way, the performance review can positively affect everything from workplace trust to employee engagement to overall morale. The key is to break these four common, performance review bad habits that are killing the process:

1. Making it an annual event

The performance review is very much alive; the annual performance review, on the other hand, is dead (or should be).

Possibly the biggest mistake companies make when it comes to the performance review is making it an annual event.
Instead of waiting until the end of the year — which is stressful enough as is — to review and discuss a year’s worth of performance-related data, try holding performance reviews at least once every quarter.

Conducting performance reviews on a semi-regular basis can help reduce the amount of employee apprehension that accompanies the formal, annual review. Not to mention, meeting regularly with employees simplifies the goal-setting process (what performance reviews should really be about), from adjusting goals to monitoring progress.

2. Settling for a “good job”

Everyone appreciates an occasional “nice work” or a pat on the back. While praising employees for a job well done is an essential part of the performance review process, it shouldn’t be the only part.

Maybe you really do have an employee who’s just that great, but the review process isn’t just about providing feedback. Although creating an ongoing feedback cycle is a healthy practice, the performance review should cover a number of things.

For starters, it should focus on setting goals and aligning those goals with your company’s vision. Additionally, employees and employers should work together to create an employee development plan.

Last, but certainly not least, performance reviews should focus on eliciting feedback from employees.

3. Having a one-way conversation

Part of what makes the performance review so intimidating to employees, is the fact that they’re under the spotlight.

One way to lessen the intimidation factor is to make the performance review a conversation rather than a confrontation. The performance review is an ideal opportunity for employers to gain insight into their own performance.

You might be thinking that having employees provide feedback to their boss can add to their intimidation level. Asking the right questions (i.e. questions that don’t feel like a trap) is the key to alleviating feelings of intimidation associated with providing feedback. Try asking questions like:

  • If you were in my shoes for a day, what would you do? Why?
  • What’s one thing you would have me do differently?
  • What have you noticed our customers/clients/employees want that I’m missing?
  • What can I do to make your job easier?

4. Lacking a good balance

Finally, performance reviews should have a good balance between constructive feedback and positive reinforcement.

A performance review that leans heavily in one direction is something you want to try to avoid. After all, too much of even a good thing can be bad — especially when it comes to employee feedback.
While positive feedback encourages employees to continue doing what they do well, it’s the constructive criticism that helps them grow professionally. If you don’t point it out, no one will. The key is to find a good balance between the two.

What are some other performance review habits that need to be broken? Share in the comments below!

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