Top 10 mistakes when giving a performance review

There are two schools of thought when it comes to performance reviews. People tend to either view them as an opportunity for feedback and growth or spend all year dreading the awkward discussion chocked full of criticism. How you, and even your employees, view performance reviews is really up to you. Rather than seeing these reviews as an annoyance or as confrontational, think of them as a checkpoint to measure how far an employee has come and where their path is heading.

Although performance reviews can be a golden opportunity, they often turn out to be counter-productive wastes of time because of small mistakes managers make that quickly add up. When you think of the many performance review mistakes we have probably all made at one time or another, it’s understandable that employees wouldn’t excitedly count down the days until their next one. To make the most of your performance reviews, take a look at the top ten mistakes managers make and take note of what not to do.

  1. Winging it – I have no doubt that you can muddle your way through a meeting with little to no preparation but performance reviews are not the time to practice your improv skills. Give your employee the respect they deserve by taking time beforehand to think about their performance or even taking a look at past work so you can give a fair and informed review.
  2. Vague City If your performance review for an employee could be taken and the names be switched and it still be relevant, your review is too vague. While vague reviews may protect employees’ feelings and be easier to write, they are not productive. Be specific in your criticism and in your praise. After all, if an employee doesn’t know what you are and aren’t happy with, they won’t know to repeat or cease those actions. A vague performance review is about as useful as no review at all.
  3. Nothing but the bad – While performance reviews are certainly the time to discuss weaknesses and potential areas of growth, an effective performance review gives comprehensive feedback on both the good and the bad. Performance reviews that only focus on the negative are exactly the reason employees dread these reviews.
  4. Nothing but the good – On the other hand, some managers either don’t want to or don’t know how to give negative feedback, so they only talk about what the employee is doing right. It goes without saying that even the most talented employee can grow, meaning the discussion about what they can improve on should be happening in every performance reviews. It’s great to praise the successes but learning from failures is also an opportunity to improve.
  5. Not thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’ – Many managers see performance reviews as only benefiting the employee receiving the review but in all actuality, the manager is also benefitting. Performance reviews essentially help you get what you want or need from the employee. Not only can they help to improve employee performance but also they can be a time for you to reevaluate processes and duties. In the same way you’re helping your employee perform better through feedback, give you and your department a boost as well by evaluating your successes and failures, especially in relation to your employee receiving the review.
  6. It only happens once in a blue moon – With busy schedules, performance reviews often fall to the bottom of many managers’ to-do lists. However, performance reviews must become a priority because providing one review every two years is about as productive as going to the gym once a month. Without regular reviews, you have no benchmarks and no opportunity to measure improvement.
  7. Popularity contest All too often managers base their reviews on their own relationship with the person or opinions they have formed about them. Bias has no place in performance reviews and instincts have very little to do with them as well. If you have a bias or relationship with the person you’re reviewing, find a way to check it at the door.
  8. Short-term memory it’s an easy thing to only remember the recent happening with your projects but when it comes time to review, thing beyond your employees’ latest successes or failures. Since they don’t work on a freelance basis, you have no reason to only judge their work based on one project.
  9. No plan of attack In employee reviews there are typically discussions about what is up next to accomplish and what challenges they will face in the coming year. However, the vital part of accomplishing these goals is never discussed or outlined. Formulate a plan of attack together with the employee so that expectations are clear and there will be measurables at the performance review.
  10. All talk and no listen – While you are probably obligated to provide constructive feedback, you don’t have to talk the whole time. In fact, you’ll likely gain some new insight if you take a moment to listen to what your employee is saying. Find out about their opinion of their work, their career goals and what they believe both they and the department could improve on.



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1 Comment on "Top 10 mistakes when giving a performance review"

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Bob Starace

I am a service manager in a busy construction equipment repair shop. I find it best to build a review form and have the employee fill it out and review themselves. I gill out the same form and then schedule a time to have the review. during the review we go over the form together. that way I can get real feel for how the employee thinks and feels.