Performance reviews are typically a one-sided discussion–with the boss taking the dominate role and employees often feeling forced to defend themselves. It doesn’t have to be that way.
During a ‘traditional’ review, both employer and employee are in a no-win situation. For bosses, having to sum up an employee’s performance for the whole year, rating according to scales that have little to do with the actual quality of the work done certainly do not measure the true value (or lack thereof) of the employee’s contribution. It’s a thankless task at best.
Employees don’t like reviews any better. As Samuel A. Culbert, professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article:
“Performance reviews instill feelings of being dominated. They send employees the message that the boss’s opinion of their performance is the key determinant of pay, assignment, and career progress. And while that opinion pretends to be objective, it is no such thing. Think about it: If performance reviews are so objective, why is it that so many people get totally different ratings simply by switching bosses?”
The solution? Give employees a sense of ownership of their review, a feeling of participation with you in their review. Start the review with a set of questions that can turn the review into a conversation, rather than an indictment.
Review questions that will get the conversation going include: “What have you noticed about your performance this year?” “What do you think went well?” “What would you have liked to have done differently?” “What pleased you about your work?” “Was there anything that disappointed you?” “What would you like to see happen differently this year?” “Anything you’d like to change?”
You may find that a review conducted in this manner, fulfills a more satisfying and performance-enhancing purpose than your average review process. It prompts the employee to think out loud about his or her work ethic, areas to improve and goals for the future. It’s the opportunity for both boss and employee to take responsibility for their work, which means each can become more productive and engaged at their job.