What People Get Wrong with Performance Reviews

Published on
Mar 22, 2024
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Performance reviews, when done right, can be a powerful tool for employee development and organizational growth.

However, they often fall short due to common pitfalls that hinder their effectiveness.

Let's delve into what people often get wrong with performance reviews and how to correct these mistakes.

Understanding the Purpose of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are meant to provide employees with constructive feedback, help set goals, identify areas for professional development, and foster open communication between employees and management.

When these purposes are misunderstood or not communicated effectively, the result can be unproductive and disheartening review sessions.

Common Mistakes in Performance Reviews

Focusing Only on Recent Performance

One of the most common pitfalls in performance reviews is the recency bias. If a review focuses only on recent events, it may overlook the employee's performance over the entire review period.

This can lead to skewed feedback and missed opportunities for acknowledging consistent performance or identifying recurring issues.

Lack of Continuity

Performance reviews should not be a once-a-year event. Employees need continuous feedback to know how they are doing and where they can improve.

A lack of regular check-ins can leave employees feeling disconnected and unsure about their performance.

One-Sided Feedback

Performance reviews should not be a one-way street.

Without input from colleagues or subordinates, the review may miss important perspectives.

A 360-degree feedback system, or even just involving more than one person, can provide a more holistic view of an employee's performance.

Generic Feedback

Feedback needs to be specific and actionable.

Generic comments like "good job" or "needs improvement" don't give the employee a clear direction for development.

For more on giving better feedback, check out our post, "10 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback".

Neglecting Positive Feedback

Focusing only on areas for improvement can leave employees feeling unappreciated.

Positive feedback recognizes and reinforces good performance, encouraging employees to continue their effective habits and behaviors.

Use the mix of both to most effectively communicate the plans for helping the employee to develop their skills moving forward.

The Impact of Ineffective Performance Reviews

Ineffective performance reviews can lead to demotivated employees, increased turnover rates, and a stagnation of professional growth.

On the other hand, effective performance reviews can transform a team.

Best Practices for Effective Performance Reviews

To avoid these common mistakes, consider implementing the following best practices in your performance review process in whatever way suits your team best:

  • Conduct regular check-ins for continuous feedback
  • Implement a 360-degree feedback system
  • Provide specific and actionable feedback
  • Balance positive feedback with constructive criticism

Case Study: King's Hawaiian Reimagining Performance Reviews

Many organizations have successfully restructured their performance reviews to avoid these common pitfalls.

For example, King's Hawaiian has transitioned their team completely away from traditional performance reviews and merit-based pay increases to a competency-based model that reflects on the individual's skills and projected future contributions.

In doing so, Chief People Officer, Amy Hirsh Robinson, says, "...that employees feel the new system better reflects their contributions to the company" and that the new measurement practice helps them to find new employees and celebrate current team members that best exhibit the core values of the organization.

Putting It All Together

Performance reviews are a vital part of employee development and organizational success and as such, avoiding the common mistakes can have an outsized impact on your team.

Employees don't have to hate the performance review process. Instead, use these tools to transform them from a dreaded event into a constructive and engaging process.

And if you're looking for a system to help you implement the most effective review process, we'd be happy to introduce you to WorkStory. Together, let's foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.


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