Coach's Corner

Michelle Gladieux, president of Gladieux Consulting (team training and executive coaching), answers your questions about communicating strategically.
Nov 4, 2016
Michelle Gladieux
Coach's Corner

Dear Michelle,

Annual performance reviews are approaching. They take up a lot of our managers’ time. Do you think they’re worthwhile? 

Yes, absolutely I do, if done with care. If done haphazardly, begrudgingly, with rater bias or by unskilled reviewers, watch out. That’s when return on time investment starts to go downhill. Deborah Tannen, one of my favorite researchers, believes “each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations.” I concur. The once- or twice-yearly 1:1 reviews you have with employees are often the most memorable meetings of their careers. Reviews create a coaching opportunity. It’s your duty and honor to share what you observe about others’ technical and interpersonal skills. Several of our clients report they dislike reviews because it’s uncomfortable to judge. If that’s you, come from a place of humility as you rate others’ work. Acknowledge that you’re still learning, too. A solid review process gives companies a competitive advantage and gets hearts and minds engaged.

Reviews benefit the employer and employee. If an employee exhibits dysfunctional behavior, documenting and discussing what needs to change can set improvement in motion. It protects employers if the employee can’t or won’t change and is asked to leave the organization. 

Tips from a recent Gladieux Consulting “Meaningful, Motivating Performance Reviews” seminar:

  • Plan an hour for conversation. Some employees will require more or less time. Use open-ended questions and plan to learn something new.
  • Create a 3-5 item goal plan to conclude each review, and agree on implementation time.
  • Allow your employee a say in goals for the coming review period. We expend more effort when our employer’s performance expectations energize and interest us.
  • Include praise and constructive criticism in every review. A true leader doesn’t withhold either. Be candid and specific, and reinforce reasons for employees’ self-esteem.
  • Talk about how your ratings compare to employee self-ratings. Tie discussion to core company objectives, such as wins for customers and profitable growth.
  • Avoid cut-and-pasting identical goals for employees. Each deserves individual consideration. 
  • Steer clear of common rater biases: leniency error (offering high ratings to avoid conflict), halo effect (high ratings in many categories because of high performance in one), central tendency error (avoiding the high and low end of rating scale) and similarity error (employees in the raters’ in-group receive unfounded higher ratings, and vice-versa for the out-group).
  • End the discussion with a positive comment and set a date to review progress on goals. 
  • Invite employees to contact you for help, and really mean it. Follow through on an “open-door policy.”

Readers, if you’d like a high-quality blank review format to help with your review meetings, let me know. I’m happy to send it your way at no charge.

Are you (or is “a friend”) dealing with a communication challenge? Want your question answered? 

If you've got a conflict, career block, communication, mentoring or teambuilding question to suggest, send it to Michelle at for publication consideration.
Questions remain confidential and anonymous.

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