End of year reviews are coming. Depending on perspective, this can be a time of anxiety or joy for both managers and direct reports. Often, staff approaches reviews fearful that they will receive negative feedback and many managers are equally as concerned about delivering it. This situation robs both sides of an opportunity to experience a dialogue that can serve as an outstanding professional development opportunity.
We all know that performance reviews are necessary and can be helpful, but how can managers minimize the perceived negativity of the situation while maximizing the positive, growth potential.
Routinize Feedback – One reason end of year reviews are so difficult is because it can be the first time staff are hearing real feedback from their managers. As a manager, if you’re not meeting with your staff on a regular basis, and communicating how they are meeting, exceeding, and in some cases coming up short on expectations, all of this conversation is going to be back loaded to the review. This can be difficult on low and high performing staff. For instance, many high performing staff benefit from hearing that they are doing well as validation that they are valuable to the team and that the organization is benefitting from their efforts. Lower performing staff need to hear that they can do better earlier in the year so that they have a chance to make improvements.
Systematize Reviews –The best organizations ensure that the review system is process based. Specifically, having at least six month and end of year reviews as organizational practice holds managers and staff accountable for talking about goals and accomplishments. If possible, having three reviews during the year is even better. Also, for all reviews, a consistent process should be established so that you and the direct report know exactly what will be covered, how, and in what time frame. If HR is not providing this level of detail, managers will have to take the initiative to make sure that direct reports are as prepared as possible to participate in reviews.
Focus on the Positive Outcome – The truth is there are some reviews where managers have to let staff know that they haven’t met expectations for the year. This can be a very uncomfortable situation however, like all things in life, it largely comes down to the way we frame things. As a manager, if you believe the review is going to be contentious, it most certainly will be. Instead, try to view the situation as an opportunity to help your staff reach their next level. Understand that while positive growth and change can be a hard thing, it is something that can happen in nearly every situation. Also, remember that regardless of the message of your feedback it is designed to help your direct reports achieve their best, even if sometimes their best is going to be achieved in a different situation. As always, focus on the opportunity.