Surprise, surprise — annual reviews are coming

Published 11:20 pm Friday, January 12, 2018

Annual performance reviews roll around once a year but for many managers,  it is too often.  Managers most often dread performance review time like the plague.  Just the thought of sitting down with an employee and having a frank conversation to critique their performance strikes fear in their heart.

Many companies conduct year end reviews/appraisals of their employees but some use anniversary dates of employment. Year end seems to be the most used timing as so many goals used as a measuring stick are on a calendar year basis. Regardless of when they are done, it is important that appraisals are taken seriously by the manager and the employee.

The anxiety level of the appraiser is often greater than that of the employee being reviewed. The rule of thumb is that there should be no surprises. If there are, then the manager has failed in their job.

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Ideally a manager or supervisor should communicate regularly with all the employees under his/her direct supervision.  Providing feedback all during the year is key to higher performance and a good working relationship. Feedback is not just pointing out what the employee is doing or has done wrong but instead is regular communication, both positive and negative, to measure performance and stay on track for goals set. 

In the absence of relevant feedback, the employee will make assumptions, which often are  incorrect.  Everyone wants to know how they are doing. Not providing this information is demotivating to your good employees and setting up those with issues to continue a downward spiral.

Progress reports are so important and don’t have to be formal, long conversations. Providing guidance and tips for staying on track, correcting any problems and making suggestions for improvement show the employee the manager wants them to succeed.

If you are a manager who finds yourself in the position of doing a review on a poor performer that previous managers have rated “good” or better, you have your job cut out for you. However, the buck has to stop somewhere, and that is in your lap.  Employees who have had issues that have gone unaddressed most of the time think they are performing up to par because no manager has ever told them any different. It is such an injustice to the employee who in many cases could have improved had the manager provided feedback and coaching along the way. Sometimes, they can be turned around but odds are against you if a lot of time has passed and the employee is not willing to accept the first honest review they may be getting.

Some of the techniques that can be used to improve the entire process follow.

1. Have the employee do a self-assessment.

2. Once the manager has completed the evaluation, send it to the employee to read prior to meeting with them.

3. Point out the positives as well as areas where improvement is needed. Be constructive in your comments.

4. Be open to listening to the employee. Allow time in the meeting for response. Be prepared for criticism and don’t come off as defensive.

5. Ensure that goals set are clear, measurable and agreed on by both parties.

6. Don’t get personal.  Stick to the work done.

7. Be prepared for the meeting.

8. Focus on how to improve in the coming year.

9. Ensure that pay and performance are linked.

The annual review should present the best opportunity for an employee and manager to get on the same page as to performance and goals. Even though some companies are doing away with the formal review process, the Society of Human Resource Management reports that annual reviews are still used by nearly three-quarters of all organizations.

Annual reviews can be stressful but being prepared to have a meaningful discussion with your employee can present an opportunity for good relations and future growth. This is not a time when surprises are welcomed. Being proactive throughout the year with the employee will reap benefits for both the employee, manager and the company.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing