How to Give an Effective Performance Review

by Mundell, Heather Tuesday, June 26, 2012
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Most of us crave meaningful feedback at work. It's natural to want validation and acknowledgment for our accomplishments, and many of us wish we could hear constructive criticism more often to help us learn and grow.

Yet the tool that organizations give managers, the dreaded performance review, is pretty universally loathed. Most managers aren't well-trained on how to give effective feedback. They forget the importance of direct, positive acknowledgment. They shy away from direct confrontation when they have a criticism (or go the opposite route and criticize far more often than is useful).

My number one tip for effectively reviewing performance is to do it frequently and informally. Nip problems in the bud. Catch people doing things right and say so directly. Be specific and be timely.

But you still need to give an official performance review using the process and form that your employer has selected. Here are my golden rules for giving effective reviews:

1. No surprises

Don't store up all of your grievances for review time. Address performance issues as they come up instead of waiting for the annual review. The best performance reviews document what you and your employee already know.

2. Make goals and revisit progress throughout the year

Don't set goals in January and then ignore them until the next January. Make goals relevant, adjust them as necessary throughout the year, and touch base about progress regularly.

3. Be specific

Provide a context and situation for your praise and criticism. For example, how is your employee a good communicator? What examples do you have to support your comments?

4. Don't just make your employee write it

Self assessments are a fine part of the process, but to make the review effective, you need to add your two cents. Spend some time and show a little care here.

5. Be on time

Haven't we all had our own reviews delayed by weeks or months (or years?) It's not exactly a recipe for feeling appreciated or motivated. The value of a review decreases rapidly every month it's overdue.