Secret of the Day – Avoid the Surprise Review

Okay, it’s definitely not a secret, but it can’t be stressed enough that feedback about employee performance is not a once a year event. Performance feedback needs to be well placed and timely particularly when there are performance issues.

When an employee gets to his or her review there really shouldn’t be any surprises in terms of issues related to their performance. The concerns of the manager should be well known to the employee well in advance of the actual review unless the performance problems arose just before the review is conducted.

Surprise reviews that are full of concerns and issues previously unknown to the employee simply means that appropriate and timely feedback isn’t taking place. And the employee is not being coached to higher levels of performance and hasn’t been given the opportunity to correct performance issues. Yes, there are the “lost causes”, so to speak, but they generally don’t get to a formal performance review unless an interim review is completed to support termination or final disciplinary action. But we’re really talking about those employees who can be coached and seem to have the underlying potential to fill the job they hold.

When a review is completed after 6 months of poor work quality, for example, and the employee has not been coached about this issue, yet ratings related to to work quality are low, a fairness issue comes into play. Had the manager discussed the performance problems months earlier, the employee may have corrected the problems and the review would likely have reflected the improvement….or at least should have. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the employee would not have made the necessary corrections in performance levels and in that case the low ratings on the review would accurately reflect performance after attempts by the manager to assist the employee in correcting the issue. But the employee needs a chance to understand exactly where deficiencies exist and what they need to do to correct the deficiencies.

Managers who are engaged in the process of employee development understand that immediate and appropriate feedback is the best way to correct performance issues. Doing so also helps avoid the surprises on reviews that can end up causing more harm than good. A general rule of performance management is that performance reviews should reflect largely what the employee has already been made aware of.

Employees deserve a manager’s attention and effective coaching. Stress this in your organization and don’t allow surprises of any significance to crop up during an employee’s performance review. For those “lost cause” employees, don’t hesitate to cut your losses and terminate as needed.