I'm preparing a first review for an employee and want to avoid being too aggressive.  There are many things that I want to change in my department.  This employee is average and has room to grow.  But I want to set a baseline for moving forward, rather than piling on in the first review.  Should I present negatives and indicate room for improvement only on the factors that I think we can improve in the next year? And ignore any other problems?

I've been lax about giving feedback.  This employee is remote and I don't talk to him as much as I should.

This employee has only gotten coaching on some behavioral issues, and none related to technical performance.   Again, that's my fault.

In re-listening to the performance review casts, I heard Mark say that it's common for younger managers to be more severe than younger managers while delivering reviews.  I would like to be less severe, focus on the end in mind, and indicate that performance is the main objective.

With that in mind, I think I should pick out areas that are important to improve to meet our strategic goals and ignore the others.  I should indicate that he is lacking in the areas that I'm going to ask for improvement and present relatively neutral comments in areas that he needs improvement but where I'm not going to ask him to develop this year.  

Any thoughts?


jhack's picture

Yeah, it's hard when you've not given him feedback, he didn't know what you expected, and then you have to ding him.  

Focus on where you want him to be, without hammering him about where he is.  Speak frankly but casually about where he is ("Adequate" "Meets expectations" etc).  He'll know that he can do better.  DON'T ignore the others.  He needs to know how he stacks up.  

This is an opportunity to be clear about your standards and expectations.  This review can provide a foundation for feedback and coaching.  Let him know that you will work with him to get his rating up to "superior" or "exceeds expectations" (or whatever ranking your firm uses.)  

Don't avoid his ratings.  Tell him how he did.  And make it clear (by your tone and attitude, not just your words) that you are focused on the future, not the past.  

Learn from the past, make a difference in the future.   

John Hack

dave_olsen's picture

Performance reviews are an important part of performance management.  However, they can become one of the biggest demotivators if not done properly.  I live by the rule of no surprises in the formal appraisal.  If there are areas of performance that need improvement, the first time you address it with the employee just can't be in the annual review. 

I agree with John that focus on the future is a very good approach.  Keep this review factual, ie. don't sugar coat it, but don't address (in writing) why you think the employee may have fallen short of goals unless you've discussed it with him.  Keep any "scores" that you use based on the measurable performance to goal.  If there are subjective opportunities for improvement, feel free to discuss those verbally and add goals for those areas to the employee's preset expectations for next year. 

Going forward for both of you, the routine feedback should be sufficient that the employee should be able to write a close proximity of his next review on his own.

Good luck,

Dave Olsen



akinsgre's picture

Thanks Dave & John.

I completely understand where my lax feedback is causing problems.  There is plenty I need to improve on and this employees problems are compounded by that.  

The rule of "No surprises" seems good here.  I don't want to sugar-coat, but I also want to be fair.  In this case, the employee needs to change with the organization, but has been performing well given the prior expectations.  My expectations are higher, but I can't change everything at once so I want to start with that one thing that is most closely aligned with my groups strategy.


Davis Staedtler's picture

Hey akinsgre,

I really like what Dave Olsen said.  In my place, we start with self reviews and have the direct review themselves first based on a template the company designed. Next, we tailor the conversation with coaching and new level setting. Lastly, we end with the final review conversation, goal setting and their job role score for performance with a plan for improvement.




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fchalif's picture
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Hi Akinsgre,


You are getting good advice here from everybody.

I encourage you to start practicing feedback ASAP, follow the MT guidelines and you'll do fine.

Additionally, as you increase your responsibilities and number of Directs, it is a good approach to focus on the future with all of your performance appraisals. Management is about the future, you want your directs to continue performing well or to do better in the future. There is not much you can do about the past.

You'll also find as you give more a more reviews (# of Directs x 4 times per year) ,that all of your directs will not be getting great reviews all the time. The idea is to have good solid constant communication with all your directs about their future performance with the company. You may face a similar situation as the one one you have now for a quarterly review in the future with one of your directs. This can happen for various reasons, illness, difficult objectives, company objectives changing quickly, etc.

  The practice of focusing on the future will come in handy.



akinsgre's picture

I am doing feedback.  Just not very frequently.  I would have a difficult time giving enough feedback to a colocated direct.  This one is remote and it is really difficult for me.  I try, but I need to get much better.

I hear what you're saying about focusing on future performance.  I'm going to revise some of the review to focus on what needs done going forward.