performance review illustration

We are now in the month of December, and for many people, that brings with it the reminder that end-of-year performance reviews are approaching. If you immediately felt a sense of dread at just reading the words “performance reviews”, you are probably not alone. Many people feel a sense of fear around performance reviews. That sense of anxiety and negativity can turn  an opportunity for growth into an experience many people  grit their teeth and try  to just get through.

But 2020 has been a year of rethinking, well, just about everything. As we close out the year, why should performance reviews, and the way that we evaluate and work to improve performance be any different?

Why do we dread performance reviews so much?

Let’s back up a little bit. Why exactly do some of us  have a sense of dread and negativity around performance reviews? There are several reasons.

From the side of the person being reviewed, the idea of having our flaws pointed out does not sound appealing. We know that we need to be good at our job and we want to do well.. While that is true to a degree, we tend to inflate that idea to thinking “if my manager has negative feedback for me, they probably think I’m awful at my job, and I’m probably on the verge of being fired”. We  may feel a lack of safety in making mistakes, because, for many of us, mistakes have been ingrained into our psyches as a failure rather than a stepping stone to learning and improvement. We may have received little to no positive feedback in performance reviews of the past, not because we haven’t performed well, but because not many managers understand the importance of positive feedback. .

When we’re feeling vulnerable, we may be triggered to enter into fight or flight mode- either we shut down and try to just get through the conversation with as little damage as possible, or we get defensive and see every piece of feedback as a personal attack. With this mental positioning, none of us would feel great about performance review  conversations.

From a managerial perspective, it can be really scary to conduct a performance review. Most of us are nice people and have empathy, so we remember being in the reviewee’s position. Although we know feedback can help people grow and be  better team members, we are afraid to deliver it because we don’t want to hurt feelings or become emotional ourselves. In addition, every year there is a cohort of first-time managers who have never conducted a performance review, and received zero coaching or training on how to have great performance discussions. They’re left floundering and panicky themselves. If we enter into the conversation with an anxious mindset, that canset the tone for the whole experience.

Managers may also view performance reviews as purely bureaucratic and extra work. Many managers are swamped as it is, and they may try to simply check all of the boxes to ensure that the work is “done” with performance reviews, rather than facilitating  meaningful, productive, and encouraging conversations that will ultimately improve their team’s performance.

A different path

In one survey, 92% of respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” In addition, a survey from Bridge found that offering career training and development would keep 86% of millennials from leaving their current position. That means there is something to this whole feedback thing- we just need to rethink how we approach it.

Oftentimes, we tend to view performance reviews as a time to offer feedback and assessment of the past, rather than an opportunity to discuss someone’s future growth, and career goals. In doing so, we miss a large opportunity to make space for impactful conversations about where someone  wants to grow. And we miss opportunities to understand how we can best support them in their career development journey. 

At Verb, we believe that in order to help your people  grow, you must challenge them. But, what does it look like in practice? That is why we’ve developed a new collection called Challenge People to Help Them Grow.

This goal of this collection is to foster long-term engagement and personal growth by supporting your team’s development — through career conversations, connections, and stretch assignments.

Managers who take this collection will be equipped with the tools that they need to approach growth-oriented conversations in a positive and constructive way. This collection can also be valuable for individual contributorsas well, as it will prime them for the opportunity to really connect with their manager around the shared goal of growth.

Here is a sneak peak at the activities that make up this collection:

  • What Makes it Hard for You to Support Others’ Growth?: Too busy? Easier to do it yourself? Shift your mindset to overcome the challenge and develop your team.
  • Connect People to Help Them Grow: Work smarter, not harder, to support the growth and development of everyone you work with.
  • Help Others Reframe Self-Doubt: Leverage critical moments to boost struggling team members.
  • Be Intentional About Career Development Conversations: Retain your top talent through effective career development meetings.
  • The Difference Between An Assist and a Rescue: Explore your impulse to help, and learn how to be most effective when you do.
  • How Stretch Experiences Fuel Growth: Learn why stretch experiences work and what makes for a good one. 

Try out one of the activities right here, right now: Be Intentional About Career Development Conversations


About Verb

Verb provides a trusted and scalable solution for employees to develop themselves as conscious leaders and support the growth of everyone they lead. To learn more about how Verb can help drive career development in your organization, schedule a demo with us today.

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