Performance review time doesn’t have to be pain

At some companies, it’s almost time for what employees and managers see as a dreaded year-end task.

No, not year-end tax preparation.

The villain is year-end performance reviews.

Since performance reviews are a record of what has happened, it should not be a “surprise” for any employee. While the review should be a motivator, because it looks at history, the review is often seen as a subjective de-motivator and distraction.

Pay increases are often tied to performance review ratings. A great review may mean a nice increase. A satisfactory or lower score on a review can mean a minimal increase or no increase at all.

While this can be a time to get employees fired up and enthused to accomplish even more positive things in the future, it’s often a de-motivator since it tends to focus more on shortcomings than the positive performance. Some managers tend to take the easy way out and rate the employee as “satisfactory” or “meets minimum requirements.”

Other managers may rate employees at a higher level than the employee should receive. This is referred to as the “halo effect.” When asked why the high rating, answers vary from:

— She tries hard.

— I don’t want to upset her.

— She’s a nice person.

This may become a problem, however, if there is a change of managers or the manager gets tired of the employee’s poor performance. Remember what’s in the employee’s file before rushing to terminate.

This is where the past “halo” reviews come back to haunt the manager.

There are several things managers should do to prepare for effective employee reviews:

— As the year progresses, keep a file of the good and bad things employees do so you have specifics to support an honest review; don’t rely on memory.

— Avoid the year-end rush. Move the review date to the employee’s employment anniversary date or birthday.

— Be honest and objective when doing the review — avoid the “halo effect.”

— When you see a problem, discuss it with the employee and get the employee’s feedback on how best to correct the problem.

— More frequent counselings or coffee break chats may be a better way to evaluate and motivate the employee.

Think of the annual performance review as if you are a student and your grade for the entire year is based on just one test. Don’t more frequent performance chats sound better than betting the entire result on a once a year opportunity?

Also consider having to defend the “halo effect” to an arbitrator, judge or the dreaded Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Managers that have their workgroup or team performing at their best do several things. Don’t be afraid to hold the employee accountable. Employees respect a manager that is actually a leader.

Here are just a few things to consider:

— Set reasonable and obtainable goals.

— Verify that the employee understands what is expected and what/how he will be measured.

— Make sure the employee is properly trained.

— Have periodic one-on-one discussions to get and give progress updates.

— Give the employee pats on the back in front of his peers in the workgroup when he earns it.

— Some managers provide lunch (pizza) when specific team goals are achieved.

— Don’t ignore the good employees because the underperformer needs more of your time.

— Ask for feedback from the employees about how to do things differently and hopefully better.

Employee discussions should be interactive, not just one person doing the talking.

Roger Bishop is a certified human resources specialist who owns and operates Applied Human Resources Inc. in Las Vegas. He has experience in retail, manufacturing and logistics. He specializes in helping small- to medium-size companies and nonprofit organizations. Reach him at 702-237-1333 or by email at

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