These common mistakes managers make during performance reviews could cost you a promotion

 As a VP of organizational development, I've helped hundreds of managers and employees stumble through performance reviews. Several patterns are common: some that help the process and others that are destructive.

Done right, performance reviews can benefit both the employee and the organization. Well-executed performance reviews can be a touchpoint for managers to deliver tough feedback or identify opportunities for coaching, collaboration, and growth.

Unfortunately, I've also seen the opposite happen. An untrained manager can make a performance review awkward, ineffective, and demoralizing.

Here are five common mistakes managers make during performance reviews – and how to prevent them.  

Melissa Phillipi
Melissa Phillipi is VP of organizational management at Vaco. 
Melissa Phillipi

Not preparing enough

Not preparing for a performance review is like cramming for an exam the night before.

Unsuccessful performance reviews happen when there was no coaching along the way, there was limited preparation ahead of the actual performance review, and discussion around goals or behaviors did not occur leading up to the performance review. 

Professional relationships are no different from personal relationships. Romantic partners or a couple of friends wouldn't wait all year to celebrate wins or air their grievances in one mammoth conversation.

Why would we expect a performance review to go well when we haven't put in the time and effort leading up to this critical conversation? 

Make sure clear goals are set that align with organizational objectives, check in with your employees monthly to discuss progress toward both personal and professional goals, gather feedback well in advance, and then schedule the performance review. 

Giving contradictory ratings and commentary 

During performance review prep sessions with managers, there are often contradictions between their performance ratings and their commentary. They rate the employee highly, but the comments tell another story.

This commentary is where I find the crucial feedback a manager is trying to express but they may have had a hard time saying to their employee's face. Writing forces clarity, and this is very evident at performance review time. 

Contradicting ratings and comments send mixed signals diluting the crucial feedback – feedback that will likely help them and even potentially save their job. In these scenarios, employees are often confused and dismiss the feedback.

Managers should be brave enough to give an appropriate rating if an employee hasn't met expectations on a particular KPI or competency.

Manipulating performance review ratings is a lose-lose practice.

Referencing an employee's past 'sins' that have been resolved

This one still shocks me. While most managers are afraid to give anything less than positive feedback, some people get strangely brave behind a computer screen – and tend to write things they would never say to someone's face. 

As a result, they end up referencing old "sins" – like events, failures, or misjudgments the employee made throughout the year – that have already been addressed and the behavior has been corrected.

While this is a common mistake, it's also incredibly destructive. Not only are employees left feeling demoralized, but they are also often angry, hurt, and discouraged – because what does it matter if you've improved if your past will always be there to haunt you or be thrown in your face? 

I advise managers to always be forward thinking: focus on problems that have yet to be solved and the development of the employee. Performance reviews should center around growth as well as providing constructive feedback. 

Taking calls or answering emails during a review  

Nothing says "you're not very important to me" quite like answering a call or checking a text or email during a performance review conversation. 

I always tell managers to put themselves in the shoes of their reports. Often reviews are stressful and anxiety-inducing for employees. It's unempathetic to be distracted by an email or someone popping into a private meeting. 

Put the phone away, turn off Teams or Slack, and ensure your colleagues know not to interrupt unless it's a true emergency – maybe even go for a walk or take the performance review outside. This is a priority, so make it evident.

Leaving no time for future development discussions   

 A professed talker and caffeinated extrovert, I understand the challenge of keeping the conversation focused enough to stay on schedule. But it's important to always leave time at the end of a review to discuss the future progression of an employee.

Effective managers are also good coaches. Always allow time to ask provoking questions that will encourage employees to think about their future at the company.

Prepared managers should have enough material to present an individual development plan since all past performance and displays of behavior have been discussed and documented in regular one-on-ones and feedback sessions. 

A simple trick to help you remember to do this is to write a question or two on your employee's self-assessment, such as, "Did you achieve your personal and professional goals this year? If not, why? What would you like to achieve this year?" 

Managers should gather this employee feedback before the review to plan further improvements and objectives.

Try and improve one aspect of the review process

While the above is not an exhaustive list of mistakes to avoid, here's my advice for managers: It's better to do something about one thing instead of nothing about everything.

Productive performance reviews are possible if managers take small steps like these throughout the year.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post