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10 Mistakes Managers Make in Performance Reviews

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Employee performance reviews should be an important part of managing your business. Unfortunately, some managers don’t look forward to these evaluations, as they might see them as a waste of time. According to the ‘Employee Engagement in the MENA’ poll, March 2014, only 52% say they ‘always’ receive feedback to help improve their performance. When you feel that way it’s easy to make mistakes and hence ruin an employee’s enthusiasm, motivation, and overall performance.

Here are 10 mistakes that can ruin an employee performance review by the HR experts at that you should avoid:

Mistake #1: Waiting for the performance review to give feedback

Waiting for the annual review is one of the biggest mistakes managers make. It happens when a manager fails to give employees adequate feedback on their performance during the year, and then dumps it on them during the performance review meeting. You cannot expect an employee to do the right things, the right way, if you haven’t provided any guidance or feedback all year, can you? Luckily, 70% of poll respondents in the ‘Employee Engagement in the MENA’ poll feel they can disagree with their manager without fear of getting in trouble. So don’t refrain from having regular discussions with your employees to let them know whenever you can where they’ve gone right or wrong.

Mistake #2: Overemphasizing recent performances

Giving greater weight to recent rather than earlier events can lead to an inaccurate and unfair assessment and is called the “recency effect”. Even if employees have accomplished wonderful things over the course of an entire year, you can make the mistake of only discussing what happened recently. Our advice to you in this case is to avoid overemphasizing an employee’s recent work by taking note of the employee’s work throughout the entire year. Remember, when you only focus on the near-term employees can easily fall prey to the “My-performance-review-is-in-a-couple-months-so-I-better-pick-up-the-pace” syndrome.

Mistake #3: Talking not listening

Another big mistake that managers make in performance appraisals is doing too much talking and not enough listening. These meetings are supposed to be interactive, where the manager doesn’t simply rely on his or her own opinion of the employee’s performance during the year, but also strive to learn the employee’s viewpoint.

Performance reviews shouldn’t be monologues. These evaluations should be all about employees. Ask if they’re having problems, need assistance, have the right tools to do their jobs job, etc. Ask how you can help them succeed. According to the ‘Employee Engagement in the MENA’ poll, a third of MENA professionals (35%) don’t have all the resources they need to do their job well.

Moreover, a key objective of the performance appraisal is to agree on goals for the following year. How can there be true agreement and commitment to such goals if you don’t listen to the employee?

Mistake #4: Being too positive or too negative

Some managers feel uncomfortable giving negative feedback and consequently, can omit information in order to give employees the feedback they need to improve. And then there are other managers who are instinctively too negative, leaving the employee wondering if they can do anything right.

As a manager appraising someone’s performance you should give your honest opinion. Do not over-rate to “motivate”. Some people feel employees will live up to an evaluation. (If I tell her she’s doing a great job maybe that will give her the boost she needs to actually start doing a great job.) Evaluations should accurately reflect performance – the good and the bad.

Mistake #5: Being critical without being constructive

Some managers can be too critical and neglect to provide any constructive advice on how an employee can improve. This doesn’t help the employee or the manager. Even if your criticisms all have merit, if you don’t explain how the employee can improve, they are likely to miss the validity of what’s being said and simply think they are being victimized.

Mistake #6: Raising issues you can’t back up with examples

During a performance review, never refer in general terms to any problem or area for improvement without examples that back up your conclusion. Facts and figures are a necessity. Don’t refer to any weakness or area for improvement without specific examples that back up your point. If you say, “I don’t feel you handle customer complaints as well as you should,” make sure you have at least two specific examples to share – that way you can also discuss how those situations should have been handled.

Mistake #7: Comparing to other employees

Even if it’s true, never say something like, “Your sales numbers are the worst in the group.” And definitely don’t compare one employee to another. Comparisons are unfair at best and often create hard feelings and unhealthy competition. Only compare employee performance to standards; if the employee does have the lowest sales numbers but is still meeting expectations, focus on ways to exceed expectations.

Mistake #8: Being too vague

Always make sure to be specific about what you liked and didn’t like in an employee’s performance. According to the ‘Employer Branding in the MENA’ poll, February 2014, 60% of professionals in the MENA say the thing they appreciate the most is when they know what’s expected of them at work.

Mistake #9: Coming unprepared

Some bosses like to do these meetings in a hurry. The worst part of this kind of approach is that it typically means the boss hasn’t given any thought to how the report has done in the last year and what they need to do to improve. Even worse are the bosses who simply cut and paste what was on last year’s performance review form to this year’s with minimal, if any, changes. To the employee, an annual performance review is a big deal (especially if a pay raise is involved), so make sure your review is as truthful and inclusive as possible.

Mistake #10: Making promises you can’t keep

A good performance evaluation assesses the past and looks to the future. So certainly share improvement or development plans, but keep in mind that when you say, “We can possibly train you in customer service,” the employee hears, “We will definitely train you in customer service.” If you aren’t sure you can come through, either say nothing or be sure to emphasize that a potential opportunity is only a possibility. And if that opportunity won’t come through, let the employee know and explain why it didn’t work out.
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