Top Complaints About Performance Reviews

Beverly Inman-Ebel Very few people like to be judged unless they are going to come out on top. Most organizations have annual performance reviews to assess how a person has functioned and to head them in the right direction for the future. Both the manager and the employee often dread these reviews. The top complaints and the solutions to them are as follows:


The information is a surprise. The employee did not know what was being judged. A performance that occurred six months ago is just now surfacing as a correction.

Solution: Give corrections immediately. The performance review is intended to be a summary of what the individual already knows.

he review is subjective. What is excellent to one person is acceptable to another. Many employees sincerely feel they have contributed more than the performance review reflects. They quickly become defensive and may leave feeling unappreciated.

Solution: Use the Keep-Stop-Start method that provides descriptions and details rather than relying upon numbers or ranking.

The review is late. When a performance review does not occur in the month it is scheduled, the message is often that the process is not important and perhaps the individual being reviewed is also not important.

Solution: Schedule reviews annually for established employees and quarterly for new employees. Place the schedule in your calendar. Small departments or companies often will schedule all performance reviews in the same month. If this is the choice, make sure that the month selected does not conflict with other seasonal deadlines. Treat this appointment just like one with a valuable customer: schedule, plan, and execute.

The employee does not get to give input in advance. Many employees come to the performance review like a sheep to the shearing house. In other words, they feel like they get ripped off because it is a one-way reviewing process.

Solution: Have the employees complete the same review on themselves and give it to the manager before the meeting. This makes it easier to handle expectations and the information they give can actually help the manager remember performances in the past.

There is little or no real follow-through. Some employees leave the review thinking, “So what?” They have been judged and are given little guidance on how to perform better.

Solution: Make sure that quality time is spent on what the person needs to do to improve. Ask for input. This portion of the review works best as a discussion.


It is difficult to remember a year’s worth of performance. Most performance reviews are heavily skewed to the last three months because that is the time period that is the easiest to remember.

Solution: Keep a file on outstanding and inferior performances throughout the year. These warrant a meeting or mention immediately after they occur, so the tracking process is “meet and document.”

The meeting is a confrontation. Employees can take reviews personally and many managers would like to avoid them.

Solution: Discuss the behavior or performance rather than the person. Ask questions to gather input. A confrontation does not need to be negative, rather it can be a coming together to bring an issue to the front.

It takes too much time. Managers are busy and their other responsibilities are not excused or delegated during the time for completing the performance reviews.

Solution: Don’t wait until the last minute. After meetings with your employees, make notations or actually go to the electronic form and fill it in as the year progresses.

It’s hard to be objective. Managers want to be fair, yet selecting a number to represent a person’s contributions will usually be somewhat subjective.

Solution: Use descriptions and examples to support the evaluation.

Performance reviews are not likely to go away, so it is imperative that we get better at giving and receiving them. For specific solutions, call TLC and request a complimentary and confidential ten-minute consultation.

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