5 Myths about Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are one of the most misunderstood, and often wasted, part of a person’s job. People imagine walking into a coliseum of stress and ridicule, with a chance they’ll be let go by the end of it. And yeah, I’m sure a bunch of companies still run their reviews like that and it’s to their detriment because they could be so much more. 

Performance reviews should be civil, informative, energizing, positive, and constructive but myths and horror stories have given them a bad name. Here are five myths and why they aren’t (or shouldn’t be) true. 

Myth 1 - They only have to take place once a year 

This is the performance review people dread. They see it on their calendar weeks, maybe months, in advance but it still pops up on them every year. However, the definition of performance reviews can still be reworked and used as a re-energizing tool for you and your team. 

First off, they should take place AT LEAST twice a year and ideally, there are informal meetups in between. 

The best way to start getting more out of performance reviews is to stop thinking of them as a singularity. A performance review should be a mixture of formal and informal review sessions. 

If you do them just once per year, no matter when it takes place, any course correction or adjustment is impossible.  Companies who utilize performance reviews annually make every additional performance review less important. Follow up is more difficult. The performance review is too long to have anything constructive happen. 

Having biannual or quarterly reviews means that employees and their managers are more in tune with what each party is doing, how they’re doing it,  if they’re meeting their goals or not, and what course corrections or adjustments need to be made. 

Myth 2 - They have to be long meetings 

Performance reviews really do not have to be these marathon meetings everyone makes them out to be. The most effective performance reviews I’ve been a part of have taken just over 20 minutes. 

How can they be done so quickly? Planning and preparing. 

If both parties are prepared (that’s a big ‘if’), performance reviews can be effectively tackled in less than an hour or less than thirty minutes if they’re done quarterly. 

Both parties need to prepare what the meeting is going to cover which boils down to; past, present, and future. Talk about how things have gone since the last review. Talk about what’s going right now. Strategically plan where the employee should be by the next review. 

Myth 3 - They have to be awkward and stressful

Getting a performance review on the schedule is basically an invitation to a stress-free, non-awkward, safe zone. Unless you’ve just done an awful job since the last one, it’ll be a constructive and civil discussion about your performance. 

If you want to show off, show off! Now is the time to do it. Talk about how many projects you’ve taken on, how effectively you’ve completed them and how you’re looking for more. 

Myth 4 - It should be mostly constructive criticism

No no no. Performance reviews should neither be all criticism (even if it’s constructive) or all praise. Find the middle ground between those two metrics - the ratio is going to be different for each and every person, so spend some time figuring out how each employee is going to respond. 

I am a huge fan of the 5 compliments, one critique rule. It doesn’t have to be that exact ratio but more praise than criticism is always hugely beneficial to both parties - however, it must be authentic.

There is nothing more demoralizing than recognizing somebody is searching for a reason to praise you. And there’s nothing more boring than being showered in compliments if you’re looking for honest feedback (props to you if your honest feedback results in compliment showers). 

For more information on how to zone in on the right feedback ratio, check out this article - https://hbr.org/2013/03/the-ideal-praise-to-criticism/  

Myth 5 - Time to ask for a raise  

Slow down chief, this is not the time to come in with a presentation as to why you deserve a raise. This is a conversation where you have an honest discussion about what you’ve been up to. What comes out of the meeting, however, should give you a pretty good idea of how to get that raise. 

Asking for a raise is all about demonstrating past, present and future value. Show the company that without you they would be much worse off (without sounding too maniacal). Going through a performance review should give you a pretty good understanding of your standing at the company and what leverage you might have when you do find a good time to approach about a raise.

If you’re interested in more tactics on asking for a raise, definitely read this article - https://hbr.org/2015/03/how-to-ask-for-a-raise 

See? Performance reviews open up all kinds of opportunities for managers and employees alike. Use them as an extension of your culture, enhance company transparency, and energize your workforce! 

Next week, 5 truths about performance reviews.