5 Ways to Take the Pain Out of Performance Reviews

For many supervisors, giving an annual performance review is like going to the gym: They dread doing it and it’s sometimes painful when they do, but they know it must be done.

There’s no way to take all the stress out of performance reviews. But in a recent NextGen online training, two speakers from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management discussed tips for making performance discussions less painful and more productive.

Here are some key takeaways.

Set Clear Expectations in Advance

Ideally, you and your employees are meeting regularly to discuss performance (more on that below). But an annual performance review is not just another discussion.

Prior to the meeting, you should send an email to your employee that sets clear objectives, said Rebecca Ayers, Ph.D., Manager for Human Resources Strategy at OPM. For example, let them know that they should be prepared to review their accomplishments, discuss areas for improvement and highlight opportunities for growth.

“Clarity is kindness,” Ayers said.

Provide Specific Guidance on Prep Work

Just telling employees to be ready to talk about their accomplishments is not necessarily all that helpful. You need to let them know exactly what you are looking for, said Amanda Custer, Supervisor for Performance Management and Strategy at OPM.

For example, consider asking them to provide a written narrative of their key accomplishments ahead of the review, she said. For each accomplishment, the narrative should cover any helpful context, highlight the impact or outcome and align it with the employee’s specific performance goals.

That prep “allows both the supervisor and employee to feel calmer going into the session,” Custer said.

Limit Distractions

Many offices and meeting rooms are designed to be open, collaborative spaces, with big windows and glass walls. But such a space, while great at other times, is not ideal for performance dicussions, said Custer. You’re bound to be distracted by people walking by and catching your eye. It’s like being in “performance management zoo,” she said.

In the same vein, be sure to turn off your computer monitor and put your cell phone out of sight. Otherwise, like it or not, it will distract you. When that happens, “it just sends a signal that you are not fully engaged in the conversation,” said Custer.

Don’t Bury the Headline

Ayers said that she always used to wait until the end of a discussion to share an employee’s official performance rating. The idea was to lay the groundwork and make the case for that rating.

“What I didn’t realize was that the employee heard absolutely nothing” until the end, she said. “The only thing they cared about coming into the meeting was, what was their performance rating?”

Now she starts by sharing the rating, at which point an employee is ready to discuss the “why” and talk about potential areas of improvement, she said.

Be Prepared to Listen

When going into a tough performance review, you might think you understand the root causes of an employee’s difficulties, but you might not know the whole story.

For example, the employee might feel that the expectations were not clear or that they didn’t have the resources needed to do their jobs, be that specific tools or training. Or maybe external factors were affecting their performance, whether in the workplace or at home.

“You really want to approach this more like a scientist,” she added. “You want to approach it with curiosity and an open mind, so that way you can hear what the employee is saying and try to help.”

This online training is sponsored by:

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply