Writing Performance Reviews Without the Blood, Sweat and Tears

Like all managers, I have spent many frustrating hours trying to write performance reviews. It starts with searching for the performance plan, but after a while, I give up and ask HR for a copy. They tell me they’re not sure it’s the final version because I never gave them the signed copies. Fantastic! I ask my team for their copies but they can’t find them—we’re off to a great start.

I decide to use the plans I have and hope no one finds the signed copies. I sit with the plans, the blank review form and wait for inspiration—nothing comes, so I google ‘writers block.’ One article suggests changing tasks for a while and then revisiting. I decide to take this advice and park the reviews.

This staring routine goes on for days. My blood pressure is getting higher and higher. Eventually I decide to do the same as last year and ask my team to do their own—problem solved—phew! I promise myself this is the very LAST time I will let this happen.

If this is your yearly scenario, here’s five steps to avoiding the nightmare:

  1. Keep a performance log. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A place you can make a few notes of your teams successes and failures as they happen during the year. 
  2. Create a simple structure for your review form. Include goal name, goal measure, goal result and goal weight. Also, include a space to record behaviors you would like to see more of. Finally, add behaviors you would like to see less of. It’s that easy.
  3. Use a simple 1-5 rating scale. Below expectations is represented by number one, and well above expectations is showcased by the top score of five. You are kidding yourself if you think you can be any more accurate than that.
  4. Use examples. Refer to your performance log to explain the rating you have assigned. Here you’ll have fresh examples and a small timeline of events.
  5. Remember, performance reviews aren’t about the form. They are about the conversation.  The form is supposed to help script that conversation, it is not an end in itself.

Good Luck. And when you’re done, you should feel the good Blood, Sweat and Tears: