5 Performance Review Feedback Flubs

Listen carefully, and you can hear the sounds of the approaching holiday: sleigh bells, Christmas carolers, and the groans of employees lamenting performance review time.

That last one may not provide much holiday cheer around the office. But managers can help turn reluctant moaning into a more joyful noise by avoiding performance feedback fit for Ebenezer Scrooge.

Here’s a few feedback faux pas to steer clear of (just like fruitcake):


1. Silent night


Proper appraisal feedback inspires, motivates and engages employees. But first it must exist. Yes, employees should have a good idea of their duties based on their job description and the goals they set at the beginning of the year. But actively managing your direct reports through regularly scheduled status meetings and random checkups helps keep everybody on task.

Additionally, you can turn the information gathered during these brief get-togethers into accurate, meaningful feedback when it’s time to evaluate performance for the month, quarter or year. There won’t be any surprises – and little reason for anxiety – because anything you will discuss will be something you already have.

Saving all your criticisms for the year-end review means the employee has been denied the chance to improve their performance over the previous months. And now they’re just getting dumped on, providing little motivation for the coming year.


2. Candid vs. candied feedback


Objectivity in performance reviews is a must. Productivity can’t improve unless we’re honest about its current state. Moreover, performance evaluations need to be accurate reports of employee achievements and shortcomings if litigation occurs down the road.

Jathan Janove, shareholder at the law firm of Ogletree Deakins, spoke at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2013 Conference about a study of 40 employment law cases in California that referenced performance appraisals. In 39 of those cases, the reviews were cited by the plaintiff to undermine decisions made by management.

The lesson: Once you’re in court, there’s no disputing the documented evidence. So be brutally honest about performance, for good or ill.


3. Making the naughty list


Another mistake that managers can make when delivering feedback is focusing only on the negative. Performance appraisals are meant to address these issues, but they’re also designed to deliver positive reinforcement of desired behavior and work outcomes.

Problems should be addressed when they happen, not at performance review time. Sure, they can be revisited in a summation of employee performance, but listing an employee’s shortcomings without also praising their good work is part of what perpetuates the performance review’s undesirable stigma.

Try starting with the positive stuff and then easing your way over to the negative side. And remember: You’re a coach, not a judge.


4. Giving and not receiving


We’ve talked a lot about managers doling out feedback. However, employees should always be part of the conversation. It is, after all, their performance that’s being evaluated.

Be sure to give the employee plenty of time, either between areas of focus or at the end, to respond to your feedback. Listen attentively and take notes. This helps ensure that what you’ve said has been understood. It also provides the employee an opportunity to contribute to the plan moving forward.


5. No New Year’s resolutions


An employee’s time with your company doesn’t end when the ball drops in Times Square. After addressing their performance over the past year, craft a development plan that enforces their strengths and fortifies their weaknesses. Help them create new goals and a step-by-step plan that will help them take action right away. Talk about what’s next.

This is a great time to discuss training or mentoring opportunities. It gives your employees something to look forward to as they reflect on their performance. It also engages them in their career development and conveys a sense that you’re is invested in the betterment of your staff.

Learn how Insperity® PerformSmart® can help you deliver performance reviews that make every new year even happier than the last.

Need performance management software?

Click here to see how we can help your business