Dreading Performance Reviews? Join the Club.

The headline in the Washington Post told the whole story: “Study finds that basically every single person hates performance reviews.”


Thanks goodness. I thought I was the only one.


The article was commenting on a research study in which university staffers were asked to rate their feelings about an earlier performance review. To a person, they disliked the experience. Even those naturally inclined to view feedback as a good way to learn and grow had nothing positive to say. The main reason — managers’ inability to avoid implicit negativity, even when talking to high performers.


In fact, studies show that managers dread giving reviews just as much as their team members hate receiving them.


One of my favorite stories about feedback is told by a colleague of mine. When someone notorious for giving less than stellar feedback asked her, “May I give you some feedback?,” she responded with a resounding, “No!” Feedback is seen to be a dirty word and maybe that is because so many of us are bad at giving it. But take heart, it is a talent that can be cultivated.


With annual reviews right around the corner – there’s never been a better time for managers to learn how to do it better.


Get in the game. The first thing is to change the context of the conversation. Lose the director’s chair and put on your coach’s cap. Performance coaching is an ongoing process of communication, feedback, direction and support in which both parties – manager and direct report – collaborate in achieving clearly defined goals aligned to business results.Directing an employee is very different from coaching an employee:


A performance review is given to an employee; performance coaching is a dialogue with the employee. In fact, you may already be bringing the coaching mindset into your performance discussions. Are any of the following true?



If you’re nodding yes to one or more statements, congratulations! Your instincts are right on, and now it’s a matter of honing your skills. As an executive coach, I help leaders and managers raise the performance of their team members by using five critical coaching skills:


  1. Maintaining and enhancing self-esteem
  2. Active listening
  3. Describing specific behaviors and impact
  4. Providing recognition
  5. Providing feedback to improve performance


In my next blog, I’ll discuss the first two skills, including techniques that will help you share forward-looking feedback in ways that make learning and action not only possible but enjoyable for employees. Now wouldn’t that be a switch – if every single person loved giving and receiving performance reviews?



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