Avoid These 5 Performance Management Mistakes

Managing employee performance isn’t exactly a walk in the park. In fact, most managers dread giving—and preparing for—employee reviews, especially if they have to deliver negative feedback. So, what do you do when giving feedback feels like running against a strong headwind—uphill both ways and in the snow? To hit your feedback stride, avoid these five performance management mistakes:  

1.  Putting Off Delivering Negative Feedback

It’s not fun to give someone negative feedback. But when an employee isn’t living up expectations—or your standards—it needs to happen. When you’re honest and transparent about performance issues, you open the door to improvement. And keep in mind that your employee might not even realize that he or she is underperforming. Just try not to unload all of your negative feedback at once. This Inc. article explains why you should give constructive feedback a little bit at a time: “Changes in behavior are more easily achieved when negative feedback is administered in small doses. When managers stockpile problems, waiting for the ‘right moment,’ employees can easily become overwhelmed.” When you address performance problems in a thoughtful manner as they arise—instead of waiting for the problem to escalate—your employee will be more receptive.

2.  Coming to the Meeting Unprepared

Employees have just as much—if not more—anxiety as managers do when it comes to performance appraisals. So, when a manager comes to an appraisal meeting unprepared, it’s very off-putting for employees. And unfortunately, this Forbes article indicates this kind of behavior isn’t uncommon: “In fact, one in five employees believe their bosses don’t even think about the appraisal until they’re in the room.” Ouch. Remember that at the end of the day, we’re all people, and when you don’t put in the effort to prepare, your employees will feel it.

3.  Approaching Feedback with Personal or Gender-Related Biases

When you go into a feedback-driven conversation with the intent to critique someone’s personality, you’re headed straight for disaster. However, that’s not to say that personality doesn’t play a role in behavior. It absolutely does. So, if you believe an employee’s personality is impacting his or her work, be prepared with at least two examples of how they’ve handled situations poorly—and actionable guidance on how you’d like to see them improve.

On the subject of gender, Fortune conducted a poll that found only 58.9% of men’s reviews included critical feedback, compared to 87.9% of women’s reviews. Plus, the men who received critical feedback were given concrete examples of how to improve. Women, on the other hand, were told to take a step back or tone down their “aggressive” nature. Moral of the story: You must be careful not to provide critical, subjective feedback only. Instead, make an equal effort to point out specific opportunities where your employees could have performed better. Furthermore, steer clear of words like “abrasive,” “emotional,” or “aggressive.” Again, focus on performance—not personality—when you’re coaching your staff members.

4.  Mentioning Other Employees’ Performance

Simply put, comparing one employee to another isn’t fair. Even if they have similar job roles, you should always measure performance against established goals and standards—not other employees. So, leave the rest of the team out of it. This is your opportunity to provide clear, thoughtful, tailored instruction in an effort to help each individual employee live up to his or her potential.

5.  Overpromising and Under-Delivering

It might feel good to promise raises, promotions, or role changes to your best employees, but before you go and offer them the moon, be sure you can wrangle it down first. This Inc. article gives some good tips for making sure you cover all of your promise bases. Overpromising and under-delivering can lead to hurt feelings and even work performance issues. So, as the article explains, “If you aren’t sure you can come through, either say nothing or be sure to emphasize that a potential opportunity is only a possibility.”


Need more help with performance management? Sign up for my upcoming webinar featuring special guest host Daphne Scott: Can You Hear Me Now? The Physical Therapist’s Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work. It’ll put you on track to provide winning feedback no matter the weather.