Delivering Meaningful Performance Reviews as a Manager

performance reviewIf you’re a manager, you are likely responsible for managing performance reviews with your team members. The performance review process is often made stressful for the people being reviewed, but it can also create tension for the reviewer. Here are some tips for creating a successful performance review process for you and your team.

Avoid mentioning a problem for the first time during the review

One reason for employees’ stress about performance reviews is the fear that they’re going to get a poor review on an item that’s never been mentioned to them. So, don’t bring it up for the first time during a team member’s performance review. When you wait to mention until the review, it feels like a gotcha to the employee, and shows you’re more concerned about your power in the situation than the person’s success in the role or success in supporting your team goals.

When you approach a performance review this way, it also sets the expectations for team members that the review process is always going to be scary and stressful.

Give plenty of advance notice on any issues

By the time the review rolls around, the team member should have had express knowledge of the problem and what you expect them to do to solve it/improve their performance. And they should have had enough time to make progress, if possible.

If you don’t tell them about the issue in advance, they may not even know it’s a problem, and then, of course, are no closer to solving it. Obviously, if your team members are consistently showing up late or missing deadlines, they should already know there’s a problem. But perhaps they don’t know they’re not supposed to go directly to the CIO/CTO/CFO when they need an assignment reviewed, or they may not know that you don’t think they sound confident enough when they’re speaking in meetings.

Provide a clear explanation of any issue and the expected steps to resolve it

Give a clear explanation of what the problem is and the negative impacts it creates. And then give clear expectations on how to solve the problem, including clear steps and timelines for showing improvement. Team members will appreciate and respect your approach if you not only tell them about a problem but also guide them as they improve.


What if you follow this advice, give a meaningful performance review, and your team member still doesn’t correct the issue? One option is to give them more time. Another is to try again with better guidance.

Or you might decide they’re just not right for the role. This realization doesn’t automatically mean they need to be let go from the organization, though. They might be able to gain the skills they currently lack, or they may respond better to a different motivation style. Or you might notice that they’re quite talented and would fit a different role on a different team. Of course, if you get tired of their lack of improvement, you might have to consider showing them the door.