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Avoid these common performance review mistakes

 Crystal Spraggins, SPHR Is there anyone … anyone at all… who either likes writing performance reviews or receiving performance reviews? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Still, there’s no reason to compound the pain by introducing common errors into the review that render it much less effective than it would have been otherwise—that’s pain with no gain. (My apologies for the cliche.)

 

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

Is there anyone … anyone at all… who either likes writing performance reviews or receiving performance reviews?

 

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Yeah, I didn’t think so.

 

Still, there’s no reason to compound the pain by introducing common errors into the review that render it much less effective than it would have been otherwise—that’s pain with no gain. (My apologies for the cliche.)

So, what are those common mistakes to avoid? I’m glad you asked.

 

Getting personal

An employee once remarked to me that she did not care to be “psychoanalyzed” by her manager in her appraisal. Indeed. Conjecturing why you think an employee is doing thus and such instead of maintaining a focus on what she’s done is a quick way to reveal your lack of managerial expertise, irritate your employee, and cause your employee to stop listening. Your employee doesn’t want to read that he’s “intelligent but lacks confidence” or “always wants to take the path of least resistance,” or whatever else you think about his motivations. You can’t read your employee’s mind, and you shouldn’t try. Stick to the facts, please. The employee either made a goal or didn’t. The employee either consistently comes to work on time or doesn’t. Etc.

 

“Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match…”

If your description of the employee’s performance doesn’t match the overall rating and/or your wage recommendation increase, then you’ve committed another common review error, and it’s a biggie.

 

Sometimes when the merits don’t match the money, the appraisal will contain hints that the manager is less than satisfied, but when push came to shove, the manager couldn’t bring himself to ding the employee in the pocketbook. So, he upped the overall rating and let the rest take care of itself.

 

In one sense, this is understandable. With the average pay increase hovering around 3% for the last four years, there’s not a whole lot of room for a manager to make a point.

 

And yet, disconnects between merits and money make for ineffective reviews, because when an employee hears a mixed message, she’s going to discount one of them. In other words, if the review is peppered with “hints” about the need for improved performance, but the rate indicates satisfactory performance or better, your employee can’t be blamed for taking the money and ignoring whatever else you were trying to say.

 

Better late than never … not!

Seriously late reviews are a serious problem. Being a few days late is probably not very significant (although that’s for each organization to decide), but a review that’s weeks or months late creates multiple issues.

For example, should the manager extend the review period or limit comments to the original period? If the manager doesn’t extend the review period, how can he expect the employee to care about events that have long since passed? Or specific performance issues that have already been corrected (or could have been corrected, months ago, if only the employee had known …)

 

And, how can the manager expect to be viewed as credible when she’s trying to enforce a standard (i.e., meeting deadlines) she obviously won’t hold herself accountable for maintaining? Finally, consider the resentment and anger that’s caused when an employee’s raise is held up by a late review. Just don’t do it, please.

 

There’s hardly any part of the appraisal process—whether that’s gathering information to write the review, writing the review, or conducting the face-to-face meeting to discuss the review—that anyone cares to do. But it doesn’t matter, because managers have to do reviews anyway. And since reviews must be done, why not avoid these common mistakes and make them count?

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Crystal Spraggins
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