September 28, 2023

Why Employee Reviews Shouldn't Be Scary - Or A Surprise

Employee reviews, often known as performance evaluations or appraisals, have a notorious reputation in many workplaces. Employees often dread them, fearing negative feedback or unpleasant surprises. But it doesn’t have to be this way! 

In this blog, we will explore why employee reviews shouldn’t be scary or a surprise, and how consistent check-ins, transparency throughout the organization, honesty about performance, and other key practices can help reduce anxiety around reviews – for both the employee and the reviewer.



Consistent Check-Ins: Building Trust and Communication

One of the primary reasons why employee reviews can be intimidating is that they often happen infrequently, typically once a year. Employees might spend months or even the entire year without knowing how they are performing. This lack of regular feedback creates a sense of uncertainty and can lead to anxiety when the review finally arrives.

To mitigate this, organizations should adopt a culture of consistent check-ins. Regular one-on-one meetings between employees and their supervisors can provide ongoing feedback, foster open communication, and address concerns in real-time. Our SowTalent team recommends short (30 minutes or less), regular check-ins occur at least once per month. When feedback is delivered promptly and constructively, employees are better equipped to make improvements and feel less anxious about the annual review.



Transparency Throughout the Organization: Setting Expectations

Transparency is a powerful tool for reducing fear and uncertainty. Organizations should establish clear performance expectations and communicate them openly to all employees. When employees know what is expected of them, they are more likely to feel in control of their performance and less anxious about reviews.

Transparency also involves making the review process itself more understandable. Employees should be aware of how reviews are conducted, what criteria are used, and how their performance is measured. This clarity eliminates surprises and allows employees to prepare adequately. 

When it comes time for annual reviews, SowTalent recommends employees complete a version of the review to perform a self-assessment. This allows employees to put their thoughts on paper and allows the reviewer to see where the employee is rating themselves positively or negatively. The reviewer can then take this information into consideration when generating the review and create a better, more customized plan for delivering constructive feedback. 


Honesty About Performance and Metrics: Maintaining Realistic Expectations

One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of employee reviews is the fear of receiving negative feedback. However, honesty about performance is essential for personal growth and development. Instead of sugar-coating feedback or avoiding difficult conversations, supervisors should provide honest, constructive feedback that helps employees understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Moreover, organizations should utilize data and metrics to support their assessments. Objective performance metrics can provide a clear picture of an employee’s contributions, making the review process more fair and reducing the perception of subjectivity. When employees see that their performance is evaluated based on measurable results, they are less likely to view reviews with fear.


Continuous Improvement and Goal Setting: Fostering Growth

Employee reviews should not be seen as mere evaluations but as opportunities for growth and development. During these discussions, employees and supervisors can set goals, identify areas for improvement, and create action plans for achieving success. This forward-looking approach helps employees see reviews as a chance to advance in their careers rather than as a judgment of their past performance.


Feedback from Multiple Sources: A Balanced Perspective

Incorporating feedback from multiple sources can help balance the review process. Peer feedback, self-assessments, and 360-degree evaluations provide a more comprehensive view of an employee’s performance. This multi-faceted approach ensures that the review is not solely based on the supervisor’s perspective, reducing the fear of bias or subjectivity.


Moving Forward

Employee reviews don’t have to be scary or a surprise. By implementing consistent check-ins, promoting transparency throughout the organization, being honest about performance and metrics, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, organizations can transform the review process into a valuable tool for employee development and growth. When employees know what to expect, receive regular feedback, and have a clear path for improvement, the anxiety surrounding reviews diminishes, and they can embrace the opportunity to excel in their roles with confidence.