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?


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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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8 Comments on "Avoid these common performance review mistakes"

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Paying the right amount is always a question. What can you provide to assist in this question?

Thanks, Cathey


What if the review is good but the compensation doesn’t match?



Why must the review be done? I am convinced that since no one likes doing them and  most people only want to receive the increase, not the review, isn’t there a better way? Feedback is important but this dated process has outlived its time.


Reviews are useless. They’re only for the HR department as one of their tools to justify their existence. If you have to wait a year to tell your employee they are doing a good/bad job, than you are an incompetent manager. Managers should correct/praise employees on a regular basis. This builds a good relationship for the manager, the employee, and the growth of the company. 


Hey Larry – The HR Department hates these reviews as well but documentation is very important to keep on employees.

We’ve got better things to do then chase managers who actually need to get told once a year to meet with their employee and give them some feedback!


I have been with 3 large companies and every 3 or so years they would try the latest “thing” that was sold to the higher-ups as the best method yet. All were failures. The manager’s input should be 40% of the appraisal and employee peer input on how productive a team player the employee is should be 60%. A good manager will be coaching all year long. If the employee isn’t cutting it, then make the hard but right decision.


The review isn’t about a pay raise.  The two need to be disconnected.  How well did the employee me the measurable objectives?  The pay rate is decided by what the market is dictating and other company policies.  If you can make more money else where move.  Prove to your manager how much you save of make the company and this is why you deserve a raise.


You’re correct, Larry.  Managers should be providing feedback all year long.  However, most don’t and just want to fire employees when they’ve had enough.  

The annual review and documentation of feedback and coaching throughout the year not only help the employee and the organization, but also helps if there is a lawsuit if the employee is terminated.

If more managers provided feedback and dealt with issues throughout the year, the annual review wouldn’t be as dreaded – or could be done away with altogether!