5 Tips for Managers and Employees to Rock Performance Reviews

Depending on how your company’s performance review process is set up, you’re probably either gearing up or wrapping up performance reviews. At Red Branch, we’re wrapping up after just having completed 22 performance reviews in 2 months.

While many companies are getting rid of their performance review processes altogether, others believe it’s an important process that helps build relationships, streamline the promotion and compensation processes and help individuals to set meaningful goals for growth that align with the company. Regardless of where you are at in the performance review process, here are 5 tips for both managers and employees to make your review a success.


Did you know that 22% of employees have called in sick rather than having their performance review? While it’s normal to have anxiety before a performance review, being prepared can go a long way to reduce tension, boost your confidence and help things to run smoothly.


  • Once a performance review is added to the calendar, contact the employee with an outline of the format of the review.
  • If your process requires that employees complete any documentation, set the due date for a few days prior to their review, so you have time to look over it before you meet.
  • Look back over the employee’s previous review and make notes to discuss during their upcoming one.
  • Remember to also focus on the employee’s performance as a whole. Getting lost in the minutia will leave the employee, and you, with little understanding of where they stand.


  • If you aren’t sure about the format of the review, it’s okay to ask your manager for an outline, so you know what to expect.
  • If you don’t have one, consider creating a kudos, wins file or worksheet.
  • Familiarize yourself with your job description, review goals from your past performance review and identify some goals you’d like to work on moving forward.
  • Always come prepared to take notes. Whether it’s a notepad and pen, a tablet or your laptop. This not only gives you something to do with your hands, but it also helps your manager know that you are taking this meeting seriously.


Many people view performance reviews as a time of judgment. Remember that the best and most effective performance reviews involve healthy discussion and feedback delivered appropriately.


  • No surprises. Nobody likes to be blindsided. 80% of employees desire prompt feedback to annual reviews. Provide consistent and ongoing feedback to your employees. If there’s an issue, resolve it immediately, don’t wait until their performance review. During performance reviews, keep a perspective that focuses on overall performance for the appropriate time frame.
  • Remember that your feedback should include positive reinforcement where you recognize good work, constructive feedback where you suggest ways to improve and negative feedback where you discuss behavior that cannot continue.
  • Remember to pause and give your employee time to process. If they need a minute or clarification, provide it. Also, have specific examples prepared to back up any feedback provided.


  • Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Approximately 93% of your message is expressed in the tone of your voice and body language. Avoid defensive body language, like folding your arms or bitting your lips. These are signs that you’re either uncomfortable or holding something back.
  • If you receive negative feedback, it’s okay to acknowledge it or act surprised, but not to react defensively. 51% of employees believe that annual reviews are inaccurate. If needed, ask for clarification or examples. Never compare yourself to co-workers and don’t try to minimize or make excuses. Ask for recommendations on how you can improve.
  • There are appropriate times to cry and during your performance review isn’t one. If you start to feel the urge, it’s okay to take a minute to focus on your breathing, take a drink of water, mentally take a step back or distract yourself by biting the inside of your cheek or digging a fingernail into the palm of your hand.


Everyone wants to have a voice and be heard, using these tips on how to be a better listener will not only provide a more healthy and robust discussion, it will help both sides to build a better relationship.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

Bryant H. McGill

Managers & Employees

  • Listen as though you are going to tell someone about the conversation later.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Put away distractions, like smartphones, and if you’re using a tablet or laptop to take notes, close out of apps or windows that aren’t needed.
  • Summarize what was just said.
  • Ask for clarification instead of trying to mind-read.
  • Don’t interrupt; it’s rude.
  • Listen to understand, not to reply, and think about what they are saying, not of solutions.


This is a step that is often overlooked as unnecessary or redundant, but it’s an excellent opportunity for both managers and employees to clarify their perspectives after a review has taken place.


  • Take the opportunity to summarize and/or recap the review.
  • Highlight anything that sticks out to you or that you want to see from the employee moving forward.
  • Remember that this document is going in the employee’s HR file, so make sure to get everything on record.


  • Remember that your performance review is kept as part of your employee file, so it’s essential to get everything on record.
  • Clarify your position, especially if you are disappointed in how your review went.
  • DO NOT use this as an opportunity to complain about your boss or co-workers. Keep your comments professional and positive.


Managers and employees spend 250 hours a year on performance management. Don’t waste your time. Ensure that your performance review is effective by setting goals, creating an action plan and then following it. Once your goals are achieved, maintain them for continued improvement.


  • Provide guidance and make recommendations on the direction you’d like to see your employee move forward.
  • If there’s something, in particular, you’d like for them to work on or a skill they need to develop, clearly express and take note of it.
  • Confirm that the employee understands the company or team’s goals and what part they can play in making them achievable.
  • Hold employees accountable for agreed upon goals and action plans, support them in the process and recognize their achievements.
  • Follow up with them during their next review.


  • Consider the feedback you received and determine which items stick out to you the most.
  • Use the feedback you received and the company goals to create personal, professional goals that coincide.
  • Create goals using the SMART method.
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant, and
  • Time-Bound
  • Write out your goals in the form of an action plan and share it with your manager. If your company has goal tracking software, use it to track your progress.
  • Remember the only person responsible for your career is you.

Don’t Forget: prepare, keep your cool and stay professional, listen with care, complete the additional comments and final notes sections and use feedback to set goals and create an action plan. By following these 5 tips, you’ll not only have more effective performance reviews, but you’ll also make them rock!

This article was originally published on the Red Branch Media Blog by Andrea Pohlsander.




Chief Marketing Brain of @RedBranch Media. I help folks in recruiting, talent acquisition and HR, figure out marketing, community and social. #TBEX #TChat

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Maren Hogan

Maren Hogan

Chief Marketing Brain of @RedBranch Media. I help folks in recruiting, talent acquisition and HR, figure out marketing, community and social. #TBEX #TChat

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