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6 Common Pain Points in Performance Reviews, and How to Address Them

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Many employees and managers alike feel stressed at the thought of an upcoming performance review. However, when performance reviews are done right, they can provide a welcome opportunity for candid conversation, active listening, and real growth. After you address these key pain points that might be affecting your process, your employees will look forward to their next performance review.


Today, many organizations still hold performance reviews only once or twice a year. However, employees want—and often demand—real-time feedback. Millennials and Gen Z’ers expect continuous input on their performance; not a yearly or bi-yearly evaluation. As organizations grow more agile, performance reviews need to catch up.

What to do: Give employees the support they need to grow by holding performance reviews on an ongoing basis—say, once every two months or once per quarter. In between, give plenty of advice and encouragement as well. Giving them real-time feedback will help them to understand exactly what they need to improve in the moment, along with the specific things they’re doing well. Feedback is much easier to understand when you speak to these specifics rather than making more general statements.

One-way feedback

In the traditional performance review, the advice goes one way—manager to employee. This automatically positions employees on the defensive and ignores the value of their insights.

What to do: Make performance reviews a two-way street in order to show how much you value your people’s input. Set aside time in each review for employees to share insights on their own performance. Ask them to describe their own highs and lows, and what would help them improve their performance. Additionally, ask questions to determine the root of any problems employees are facing. That will help you to more fully understand the challenges they’re encountering and how you can help them to grow.

Using a poor rating system

Most managers benefit from training on how to evaluate employees in their reviews. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), common forms of bias often influence how managers rank people:

  • The recency effect: Managers may weight more recent occurrences more heavily than those that happened closer to the beginning of the review period.
  • Reluctance to differentiate: Due to lack of confidence or poor understanding of the rating criteria they should be using, managers may rate everyone similarly—whether good, bad, or in-between. 
  • The “horns and halos” effect: If employees perform extremely well or poorly in one area, the manager may view them as extremely competent or incompetent in all areas.

What to do: Ask HR staff to provide a workshop or one-on-one feedback sessions on how to evaluate employees fairly, so every employee will get an accurate performance review that truly benefits them. Looking at specific examples from recent performance reviews, explain the criteria you used and listen to HR managers’ input on where you could improve your accuracy. Establishing formal criteria that managers can use in their reviews will provide guidance for all supervisors who are learning how to fairly evaluate employees.

Focusing on the negative

Too often, both employers and managers dread performance reviews because they perceive them as focusing on the negative. No one likes delivering bad news—let alone receiving it.

What to do: Focus forward. Be a supportive coach who works with employees to determine the stepping stones that will bring them to the next level of growth. Set clear benchmarks and goals and recognize both the smaller and larger goals they’ve accomplished over the past performance period. Work to discover what will best motivate individual employees, such as new learning resources or a shift in the organizational culture. Taking these steps will help keep employees engaged and committed to improving their own performance, while giving them the tools to do so.

Blindsiding employees 

Managers often blindside employees by providing feedback that they never saw coming instead of speaking more in-depth about issues both sides are well aware of.

What to do: In addition to giving feedback early and often, tell employees the key points you want to discuss in the review. Send an email with a short list of issues you plan to talk about. This will give them time to prepare their own thoughts instead of feeling caught off guard. Ask employees to think about which key aspects of their performance they want to discuss, too. That way, employees will get feedback about how to handle any challenges they are encountering--and you might learn about new strengths they have developed.

Relying on memory

Your memory is not likely to provide accurate details about all the key issues you need to discuss with your people. By relying on their memory, managers do employees a disservice, often providing vague feedback.

What to do: Keep an ongoing log of each employee’s challenges, accomplishments, and efforts toward growth. Jot down the results of projects, examples of how specific skills need improvement, and how they have overcome hurdles. Employees will feel deeply valued when they see how closely you’re paying attention, and you’ll be able to provide them with a much more thorough review.

Once you revamp your process to focus more on motivating employees and providing consistent feedback, you’ll notice newfound value and relevance in the performance review. In turn, employees will recognize that performance reviews don’t center on finding fault with their work but rather on working together to create a plan for their growth. Instead of dreading these reviews, they’ll start looking forward to them and getting proactive about preparing their own talking points!

American Management Association, “The Dos and Don’ts of Performance Reviews”

Robert Half, “15 Performance Review Tips to Usher in a New Era”

The Society for Human Resource Management, “Managing Employee Performance”

TLNT, “The Top 5 Pain Points in Performance Reviews (and How to Solve Them)”

Are Your Employees Overworked? Here’s How to Know and What to Do

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Most managers don’t set out to overwork their employees. By encouraging their top talent to take on more responsibilities, they may believe they’re pushing their team to fulfill their potential.

However, people can reach a tipping point where being pushed no longer furthers their growth but instead holds them back.

We’re now witnessing an epidemic of overworked employees. Gallup has found that two-thirds of American workers feel burned out regularly in their jobs.

Being overworked affects the whole organization, as well as the employees themselves, in these key ways:

  • Decreasing quality of work.
  • Preventing strategic thinking.
  • Driving top talent away.
  • Creating significant health problems and stress.
  • Hindering employees’ growth by preventing them from actively pursuing new learning opportunities or higher-level projects. 
In most cases, being overworked results from the organizational culture. In other words, it’s not an individual problem—it’s an organizational one.  

Here are a few key signs of overworked employees that every HR manager should watch out for:

  • People routinely work overtime.
  • Employees often seem emotional and on-edge. 
  • The quality of work is decreasing.
  • People are frequently getting sick.
  • Turnover is increasing.

“There is a difference between a marathon and a sprint,” Entrepreneur points out. Occasional weeks with overtime may be necessary, but if working extra hours becomes the norm, that’s a problem.

How can you prevent your employees from becoming overworked? 

1. Negotiate responsibilities. 

  First, keep employees apprised of projects in the pipeline so they can consider how 
  they could contribute to them. Second, instead of just assigning new responsibilities to 
  employees, ask if they can handle the additional workload. If the new demands seem 
  too extensive, design strategies for sharing the workload, like dispersing tasks 
  between several people or hiring a contract worker. 

  Agree on deadlines together, too, rather than simply assigning them. Encourage employees
  to speak up if they need to renegotiate a deadline.

2. Teach time-management and stress-reduction skills.

  Feeling stressed or managing time poorly decreases productivity substantially. Offer 
  workshops on honing these vital skills, and coach team leaders on how to instill them in their 
  people. For example, at the beginning of meetings, leaders might initiate a quick check-in 
  about employees’ experience with using a new time-management technique. 

3. Avoid collaboration overload.

  Today’s workplace focuses heavily on collaboration. This can drive results when 
  people genuinely bring complementary skills to a project, but collaboration for 
  collaboration’s sake saps productivity. It can also make a task or project unnecessarily 
  complex, leading to collaboration overload. Encourage people to cut down on needless 
  meetings and to ask themselves if they could work more efficiently as individuals or a team on 
  particular projects.

4. Help people identify their priorities.

  Lack of clarity on responsibilities and goals can cause employees to overwork themselves
  to meet all priorities.

  According to the 80/20 rule, people should spend 80% of their time on the 20% of 
  their tasks that hold the greatest importance. Help employees identify their top three 
  priorities so they’ll know what to focus on. This will help prevent employees from becoming 
  overwhelmed, while boosting morale by making goals feel more achievable.

5. Cultivate a culture of care.

  Self-care is a key trait of effective employees, but all too often, it goes overlooked. Make
  self-care a key component of performance assessments to instill a culture of caring for
  one’s needs.

  Encourage employees to occasionally take a day off if they feel mentally exhausted. They might
  feel that they’re not supposed to take a day off if they’re not physically ill, and reassuring them
  that it’s okay to do so once in a while can make a big difference.

  By the same token, stop celebrating the tendency to overwork. Rather than celebrating
  employees for staying late and coming in early, tell them you’re concerned about their work
  habits and ask how you can help them balance their priorities.

6. Provide special accommodations.

Microsoft knows the importance of offering special conveniences that boost productivity. The
  organization offers a company-owned bus called the Connector that takes many employees in
  the Puget Sound area to work. En route, they can use the onboard wi-fi and outlets to work
  during the commute.

While you may not be able to offer a private bus line to your employees, giving them other
  conveniences can help reduce stress and boost efficiency. Cater to your employees’ needs
  —quite literally—by offering meals when they’re asked to work overtime. Allow them to work
  from home to complete their responsibilities during a busy week. Consider adding an in-house
  daycare service if you have many employees with young children.

7. Use goal-tracking tools.

Goal-tracking software helps people to steadily move toward their goals by following a clear
  timeline. Such programs can help employees develop a time-management plan and focus on
  their goals in a structured way. Give your team access to such tools to encourage them to stay
  on track and minimize distractions. As a manager, these tools will also help you keep track of
  how much responsibility each of your direct reports has taken on, to ensure that your people are
  not being overworked. When you need to assign a new task, you’ll have solid information about
  what each employee is currently working on.

 These proven strategies for avoiding burnout will help your talented employees maximize their   productivity. Your staff will also find more time for developing their potential by taking advantage
 of learning opportunities, reflecting on their long-range plans, and thinking strategically. As a result,   you’ll have a workforce of people who are ready to hit the ground running every day, bringing their   best ideas and effort!


Entrepreneur, “5 Signs That You’re Overworking Your Employees”

Forbes, “Effective Ways Employers Can Prevent Overworking Their Workforce”

Gallup, “Employee Burnout”

Harvard Business Review, “Employee Burnout Is a Problem with the Company, Not the Employee”

Mobility Lab, “Buses Fuel the Core of Microsoft’s Aggressive Employee-Commute Program”

Neil Patel, “How to Prevent Employee Burnout”

The Society for Human Resource Management, “How to Prevent Employee Burnout”

Washington Post, “Working More Than 55 Hours a Week Is Bad for You--in Many Ways”