Tips For Conducting Painless End of the Year Performance Reviews

by | Nov 15, 2012 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

As we get close to the end of the year, managers start to sweat. No, they aren’t worried about the Christmas party (that’s what HR is freaking out about) and they probably aren’t obsessing over Christmas bonuses (that’s the CEO’s job to fret about).

No, managers are sweating bullets over impending end of the year performance reviews.

Just saying the words “performance evaluations and year end reviews” is enough to send otherwise normal people over the edge.

Why? Because they are scary!! Okay, not really. But end of the year performance reviews stir up a certain amount of fear for many reasons. A lot of managers don’t like giving negative feedback (which is usually inevitable when it comes to performance reviews) and others simply do not want to take the time to develop an improvement plan.

And those are just two of a long list of excuses we’ve heard before.

But as HR professionals, we know just how important performance evaluations are.

If you’re still hiding under your desk because we’ve said “performance reviews” one too many times, you can come out now. We’re going to give you some tips for painless and constructive end of the year performance reviews. (Sorry, we said it again—we’re hoping that if we say it enough, you will stop having those adverse reactions to it!)

Expert HR Tips For Conducting Painless End of the Year Performance Reviews

Ongoing Communication is key! Let’s keep the office surprises reserved for random Tuesday bakery treats and impromptu karaoke concerts in the break room. This is the one time surprises are not good. Employees deserve (and want!) to know on a regular basis how they are performing. Without proper feedback, employees cannot change what they are doing or how they are behaving. Remember: if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always gotten! (Example: The awful yet addicting Twilight movies. If only someone would teach Kristen Stewart how to show some emotion!)

Know What You Are Evaluating. When was the last time you updated the job descriptions for your positions? No, you can’t just put “duties as assigned” on a piece of paper and call it a day! If the standards of the job requirements are not clear, then how are you going to evaluate the job performance? Make your life easier and update your job positions regularly (probably once a year)–and be sure you review with the employees impacted by the changes.

Consider keeping evaluations and raises separate. Depending on your organization’s compensation strategy, tying the two together can be a de-motivator for employees. For example, you have an employee who performing at a superior level, but due to poor company financials, raises are frozen. If your employees associate raises with performance, the superior review is overshadowed by the lack of a raise.

Document, document, document! This is true for positive and negative situations. Most reviews are given on an annual basis and without proper documentation — it will be impossible for supervisors to remember in December what occurred in January.

Many times, we only remember the most recent screw ups. For example, I’m sure the former director of the CIA David Petraeus accomplished many outstanding things this year, but it’s hard for us to look past his recent sex scandal. Okay, so that example is a little extreme. Obviously, you can’t look past something that like. But for issues smaller than putting the national security at risk (for example: if the employee has started showing up late or doesn’t turn things in on time), you need to not just focus on these present slip ups.

Having a performance management system and being able to reference files ensures a more accurate review (and helps the company in cases of termination justification).

Establish Goals.  A good performance management program includes goals for employees to work toward each year. For long time employees, even good reviews are demotivating when they say the same thing year after year.  (“Is anyone really paying attention to what I do?”)  At review time, you can discuss whether or not they’ve reached their goals, what helped, what got in their way, and what goals they want to shoot for in the coming year.  Have employees involved in setting their own goals, too, so that they have buy-in to what the company is trying to achieve.


Have a method to the madness. Don’t jump right in and tell the person what a horrible job they’ve been doing. Start the conversation in a positive light, hit them with the negatives and with suggestions on how they can improve, and then end with another positive comment. You are still able to get your point across, but it’s easier for the employee to digest.

Have you stopped sweating now? See, it’s not that scary. But it is important!

Managers need to understand that employee reviews are useless unless they are accurate and unless they are treated as interactive tools. Employees need to be challenged and developed – what was acceptable performance one year may no longer be acceptable the next, as management keeps raising the bar to excel to higher levels of performance, and reward.

Managers also need to recognize that a performance review is not a standalone entity to be dreaded as it approaches. Rather it should be viewed as simply a part of an ongoing conversation and an entire performance management system.

Implementing an Effective Performance Management System Will:

  • Make your employees feel appreciated, reducing employee turnover.
  • Work toward a feeling of empowerment, which increases productivity.
  • Free up management time, allowing executives to focus more on running the company as opposed to micromanaging employees.
  • Outline clear expectation so little time is wasted on mundane tasks.

We would encourage each manager reading this article to assess such a system to see how it would fit within their organization. Integration is easy, performance reviews become solid and employees really benefit from new learning experiences. It takes the subjectivity out of the equation, and provides managers with quantifiable and measurable data.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Does your company have a formal review process?
  • How does your company make use of performance reviews?
  • What are the goals of these reviews?
  • Are employees judged, trained, promoted, etc. by objective data?

performance management - Tips For Conducting Painless End of the Year Performance Reviews

Take a second to consider if employees at your company are being held back due to the lack of a formal performance management system. This could be the difference between failure and success.

Click here to learn more about how Integrity HR can help you design a performance management system that will ensure you are getting the most out of your employees.

Remember: With better performance from your employees comes a better bottom line for your company!

Stop Sweating, Keep Calm and Call Integrity HR!

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