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7 steps for effective, stress-free performance reviews


Performance review meetings can bring anxiety to both sides of the desk. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right planning by supervisors, the meeting can be a productive, morale-boosting exchange.

Here are seven steps for running productive and stress-free meetings, according to Marie McIntyre, author of the Your Office Coach e-letter:

1. Create the right atmosphere. Help the employee feel at ease from the outset. Hold the review in a private, neutral environment, such as a small conference room.

Schedule the time days in advance, with the employee’s input. Avoid meeting during a busy or stressful time for the employee. And don’t squeeze it in between meetings or before lunch.

Create an environment that supports discussion and cooperation. Sit beside your staffer if possible—not across the desk or table. Eliminate as many interruptions as possible.

2. Give the employee an overview
of how the discussion will be structured. Make it clear that you don’t expect to do all the talking.

Example: “First, I’d like for us to talk about each of the goals that you had for last year and the results that were achieved. Then we can discuss the performance factors listed on the form. Finally, I’d like to review your goals for this year and talk about professional development opportunities.”

3. Discuss job performance openly. If the employee hasn’t read his or her review in advance, explain the overall rating, since that’s usually what employees are most concerned about. Indicate that the reasons for the rating will be discussed as you go through the various parts of the appraisal.

If the employee did read the review in advance, ask if there are any questions about it. If the questions are general, answer them.

4. Talk about one goal or performance area at a time. Discuss strengths and needs for improvement in each area. Cite concrete examples of both positive and negative performance in each area.

5. Ask for the employee’s input. In any area requiring improvement, ask what resources or training the employee needs to improve.

If a self-appraisal was done, incorporate the employee’s comments into your discussion.

6. Set clear goals for the upcoming year and discuss plans for professional development. Make those goals as specific as possible.

7. Summarize the discussion. Take a few minutes at the end to summarize the employee’s strengths, needed improvements and goals for the coming year. Review any action steps that were agreed upon. Establish follow-up dates and thank the employee for the time.

Typical employee fears about reviews

Here are some of the most common questions/concerns that employees have about review meetings. Supervisors will be more successful if they plan ahead to manage these issues:

__    Will it be scheduled in advance? Will there be enough time for a real discussion?
__    Will it be private?
__    Will it be kept confidential?
__    Do I know what expectations I will be evaluated on? Were they explained in advance?
__    Will there be any surprises? (Has the employee been given ongoing feedback on his or her performance?)
__    Does my manager know what my job involves?
__    Will the evaluation be honest? Will it be fair and unbiased?
__    Will my manager listen to what I say?
__    Will we talk about things I do well?
__    Will I feel free to discuss the evaluation and my reaction to it?
__    Will we discuss developmental opportunities for me?

Ask the Right Questions to Turn it Into a Two-Way Conversation

Productive performance reviews should always be two-way discussions. The following questions can help encourage employee participation:


1. What do you see as the major responsibilities of your job?

2. Which are most important? Least important? Why?

3. What takes the most time?

4. What do you like best about your job?  Least?

5. What would you change about your job?


6. What accomplishments are you most pleased about?

7. What has contributed to your success?

8. In some areas, has it been difficult to reach your objectives? How could I help you with these areas in the future?


9. What do you consider your strong points?

10. How do these abilities help in your job?

11. Are there ways we could use your talents more effectively?


12. In what areas do you feel you could do a more effective job?

13. What have you been doing to improve in these areas?

14. How could I be of help to you?


15. What abilities would you like to improve?

16. What developmental opportunities would be helpful to you?