Satisfying Performance Reviews

Recently a friend and I had an interesting conversation about an upcoming performance review at work.  She was not expecting it to be a pleasant experience since her supervisor said they would meet so “I can tell you how to do a better job.” 

We explored her thoughts and feelings about this prospect and found she is very passionate about her work and feels she does a very credible job. But she feels defensive because of the way the performance review was introduced and the management style of her supervisor.

There must be a more positive and constructive way to review and plan together!

I asked “How would you feel if the focus of the review began with an exploration of your strengths?” She replied “If only…”, that she would love it if the conversation explored her aspirations for her clients and ways that she can improve her work.  Approaching it this way, would feel like support, rather than a big criticism.


Having worn both hats (employee and employer) in the past, I recall that performance reviewing is challenging for both. Often the exercise is seen as a useless paper exercise to satisfy a management demand and to ensure that no unobjective statements appear on the employee file.  But what if we put away the paper process and focused on our relationship? Wouldn’t there be a greater liklihood of a meeting of minds and pulling together?

As with most relationships, our feelings play a huge part.  So how does each party in the performance review prepare emotionally for this conversation?  Each might think about what positive outcomes could result.

Supervisor: What do I want my employee to be feeling after our conversation?  What is my objective here?  The answer might be: “To acknowledge the employee’s strengths and accomplishments and to build self-esteem.  To help her discover some positive growth opportunites and to be energized by them.”

Employee: What do I want to gain from this conversation and how do I want to feel after our conversation?  The answer might be: “To know what my contribution has been and to gain a full understanding of our vision and plans.  To discover some positive and energizing growth opportunities for the coming year.”

How does your organization set a positive tone for its performance review/planning exercise?

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