Performance Review Mistakes … 5 Big Ones!

Performance Management CoursePerformance reviews should be tools that managers use to boost employee performance and productivity to higher levels. More often than not, many mistakes are made. After you read this list, ask yourself if your organization is committing any of these mistakes.

1. Surprise … SUPRISE
Too many managers fail to let their team members know if their performance is slipping, and during the performance review, the team member is surprised with negative feedback, a low performance score, a missed promotion opportunity, and possibly even a threat of probation or termination. Continuous performance feedback, throughout the year, is another BIG mistake managers make.
Obviously, surprises during performance reviews are not fair to your team member, nor are they an acceptable practice in performance reviews. Team members need constant feedback on their performance rather than an annual evaluation to explain to them what their successes or challenges are.

2. Insufficiently Trained Reviewers
Way too many managers (or reviewers) have never been trained on how to properly conduct a performance review. This situation NEVER results in an effective performance review. There are ways to ensure that managers know what to include, what to document, what to say, and how to say it. So it is critical to ensure that managers receive performance management training. Some organizations even require annual refresher training for everyone who is required to complete performance reviews on team members.

Unfortunately, many managers view the performance review process as filling out a form and complying with an HR requirement, rather than as a useful management tool to provide feedback to their employees and evaluate their progress. If managers don’t document performance, recognize accomplishments, or deal with poor performance throughout the year, they may not be prepared with the information they need to give accurate and effective performance reviews.

3. Imprecise Citations and Vague Assertions
Many managers tend to use boiler-plate language during the performance review such as: “You’re doing a great job” or “You could do better,” instead of listing specifics instances and examples of the performance they are describing. General feedback is useless in a performance review, because without knowing the specifics of what their team leader requirements or optional items, team members are not provided with useful feedback that they can use to improve their performance. This also sets the stage of misunderstandings of why team members did or didn’t receive a pay increase or promotion they felt was warranted.

4. Inaccurate Evaluations
Managers may make certain unconscious rating errors when writing and delivering a performance review. One of the most common errors is the “regency effect,” where managers may base their opinions on the most recent performance of an employee rather than their performance throughout the year. Additionally, a particular manager may not have been responsible for a team member “long enough to rate” them. Here are some other “effects” that lead to ineffective and inaccurate performance reviews:

• Contrast Effect: occurs when the ratings of a high performer or low performer affect the ratings of another employee because performance of the two employees is compared
• Central Tendencies: occurs when managers avoid giving too high or too low ratings to employees and rate them average
• Personal Bias: occurs when attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and experiences unrelated to an employee’s work affect a manager’s rating of their performance
• Strictness Bias: occurs when managers are strict with their ratings and give average scores to high performers and low scores to poor performers
• Leniency Bias: occurs when managers are too lenient with their ratings and rate average and low performers too high

Untrained managers will make these types of rating errors, albeit unintentionally. Biased evaluations lead to perceptions of unfairness, subjectivity, and favoritism which will degrade a performance review’s effectiveness and cause employees to distrust the entire performance management process.

5. Lack of Support for Managers
Strong performance management systems are the foundation of effective performance reviews. Absent an accurate performance measurements, a clear process and effective delivery systems, the process will be ineffective. System constraints that make it difficult for managers to deliver an effective performance review include:

• Conflicting goals for the management process
• No online, HRIS systems
• Unclear or unspecified administrative processes
• No training or accountability for managers regarding performance management
• Problems with the review form itself

If you want to demoralize your team and organization, all you need is an ineffective performance review process. The only way to avoid these mistakes is to ensure sure your managers have the training, tools and support to conduct performance reviews effectively now and in the future.

Related Articles: Bad Perform… Review … How to Deal With This?  and Coaching … how did I do?

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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