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Use the Performance Review as a Tool

Picture this:

You’re watching TV when, all of a sudden, one of the pictures on your wall falls. No, you don’t have a ghost, the nail has simply come loose and fallen out.

You pause your show, walk into your kitchen, get a raw egg from the fridge, and proceed to pound the nail back in with it. You now have egg on your face, as well as your floor, wall, and cockapoo.

This is what happens when you use an item in a way it was not intended to be used.

Why do I mention this?

Because I was recently asked for advice by a colleague regarding signing her annual performance review. Her manager had given her her annual performance review but failed to give her a chance to discuss the comments in the review that she did not agree with and was pressuring her to sign off on it.

This is NOT how performance reviews are intended to be used. Like a hammer, they are a tool that can drive home important lessons for both employers and employees. You’d be better off using a raw egg to evaluate someone’s yearly performance than use a performance review the wrong way.

Things Need to Change

The performance review brings up incredible anxiety for so many employees, mostly because they fear hearing nothing but negative comments about themselves. This annual ritual typically occurs at the end of a long year of effort, care for students, sacrifice, compromise, and dedication. Annual reviews, when not used correctly, can derail positive attitudes and motivation.

We owe it to our employees to do better and use the performance review as a tool to motivate and enrich the entire team and department, rather than as a tactic to only deliver highlights of the year and areas that need improvement.

We also owe it to our employees to ensure the review is a dialogue, not a one-way discussion, as in the case of my colleague friend, who was forced to sign off on an opinion she did not feel as fair or accurate. Allow your employees to ask questions, in fact, ask for questions, ask for input. You are not a dictator, you are a leader – a leader whose responsibility is to encourage, motivate, and help your team to grow.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when giving reviews:

Motivation through feedback is effective when it is given on a weekly basis.

Improvement needed is best heard when in the moment, when you notice that correction will improve performance. Outlining a plan, training and support can empower your employee.

Redefining the Goal and Impact of the Performance Role

Moving forward, begin to ask yourself “What is my intent when I give performance reviews. Does my intent match the impact?” This understanding will help take the fear out of the entire process for your employees.

Ask how you could better support the employee overall and then specifically where the employee needs improvement. This takes some of the responsibility off of the employee. It’s a partnership, but if you put all the responsibility on the employee, the partnership feels more like a witch hunt.

Let’s all commit to using the right tool for the job and for using the right tool correctly. Continuing to use employee reviews as a one-sided mandate will ultimately leave egg on your face.

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