A couple of weeks ago, we published a post examining the myth that everyone hates performance reviews. It referenced a study that looked into how people respond to receiving negative feedback in a performance review. The upshot: not a lot of folks enjoy negative feedback. Big surprise, eh?
But the fact remains … negative feedback is an inevitable and invaluable part of performance reviews. After all, managers need to let their direct reports know where and when they’re missing the mark. But there are constructive ways of delivering negative feedback.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes time to provide negative feedback to your employees:
· “The purpose of a fair 360 review is to maximize performance and not punish the employee in any way.” That quote is from an interesting article on the HR Daily Advisor’s website, and even though it’s about 360 degree reviews the point is valid for all performance reviews. The article goes on to remind us that one of the main goals of performance reviews is to boost productivity. That won’t happen if a manager uses reviews to punish, threaten or browbeat employees—even those whose performance is missing the mark.
· The ultimate goal of performance reviews is to inspire success, not highlight failure. Performance reviews are one of the tools we use to get our people to perform at their best and hit the targets we set for them. In addition to showing them specifically where they’re living up to or exceeding expectations, we also need to show them where they’re falling short. But we need to do so constructively—by offering useful insights, guidance, understanding and patience. We want (and need) our people to succeed. Replacing them is costly and time-consuming. So it’s in our own best interest to inspire and coach them to want to do better, especially during performance reviews that contain negative feedback.
· Don’t just dwell on the past. Performance reviews offer the perfect opportunity to inspire your people by talking about their future. Think of the signal you send to people when you provide them with fair and necessary negative feedback but then move onto discussing their future (the kinds of roles and work they want to take on in the next three to five years, the kinds of learning and development resources they’re interested in, etc.). You’re showing them that there is still a place for them within the company, despite temporary performance hiccups, if they raise the bar.
It all comes down to this: performance reviews are only as effective as we allow them to be. If we do a poor job of delivering negative feedback—or positive feedback, for that matter—the review won’t do our people or our organizations much good.