Fresh performance insights straight to your inbox!

Why unexpected, soul-crushing performance reviews still happen

By John Fanguy Performance Reviews

Share this post:

A recent HBR article examines what do after a negative performance review. An employee receiving a negative performance review is usually crushed – especially one that he or she didn’t see coming. An employee is bound to feel “angry, embarrassed, and confused”, as describes the author, offering advice to soften the blow. But rather than offer support in dealing with the consequences, shouldn’t we examine why unexpected, negative performance reviews like that still happen? It’s primarily due to the lack of timely, ongoing feedback.

Let’s look at what happens when a new employee first enters the office. Hopefully, he’s feeling welcomed – a colleague or a manager showed him around, provided strategic advice on how to get coffee machine to work and warned that the lift B is better to be avoided. The employee is given some time to settle in, equipped with a job description and tips from the team. When is the time to provide feedback? Three months, six months? Consider the new hire’s situation… he might be on the probation period and can be reluctant to admit to a mistake. The manager has to predict potential problem and control the employee’s development during the crucial first months.

How often does it happen that employees resign in the first few months?

We know that in 2013, 40% of employees who left the job voluntarily, did so during the first six months. They have gone through the selective recruitment process, examined pros and cons only to shortly become disillusioned, or even desperate to get out! When you think about it, it seems unlikely that so many of them would misjudge the offer so badly. What happens can be attributed to bad (or lack of) performance management.

Check out these 9 performance review stats!

What needs to happen instead?

  • To develop a great company culture where everyone feels comfortable, opt for  setting concrete and specific goals and objectives from Day One.
  • Use behaviourally specific goals – spell out what’s expected of the employee. Say “Arrive on time and prepare before weekly meetings”, rather than “show commitment”.
  • Be consistent: don’t set the objective only to forget to check on the progress in a timely manner
  • “Praise in public, criticise in private”

If, despite applying the above, there is still an issue, address it straight away.

How to make negative feedback work for your employee?

  • Communicating negative outcome is not feedback. “You won’t get a bonus” isn’t a statement an employee can act upon, but a result one can no longer turn around – no point to try and improve.
  • Peter Sims, author and entrepreneur, suggested a technique called “plussing”. He describes it as “building and improving on ideas without using judgmental language.” Rather than outright criticising, a manager can say “what if you focus on the sales aspect more?”. It focuses on the creative development of ideas, seeing shortcomings as an opportunity to improve and develop concepts.
  • Don’t let the negative comments build up. With prevalent mobile use,  we can share bite-sized, real-time feedback on the go, before a serious problem arises.

It would be naive to suggest that performance review is never deserved, but before crushing employee’s motivation and confidence, make sure you’ve earned the right to give negative feedback, by having provided maximum support. Lastly, maintain a good balance: “”I try to give seven positive reinforcements for every negative comment” – suggested one general manager of IBM.

john fanguy

Posted By John Fanguy

Subscribe to the Blog for Weekly Updates:
Free Trial

(920) 349-7388

Performance Reviews in 5 Minutes or Less

See how Microfeedback Works