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Are You Falling Victim to Annual Performance Review "Bait"​?

careers chris kopp leadership Oct 25, 2021
Are You Falling Victim to Annual Performance Review

Movies that appear to be produced for the sole purpose of Academy Award nomination are called “Oscar Bait.” One strategy of movie producers in this genre is to release the film late in the year, just in advance of the Oscar season. Why? The fresher a film is in the mind of voters theoretically increases its chances of winning an award.

Similarly, with annual employee review season right around the corner, we may find ourselves guilty of succumbing to Annual Performance Review "Bait.” Employees do not intentionally bait you by doing their best work at the end of the year, but rather, it is just our natural inclination to remember what happened most recently.

This isn’t fair to the employee or to your company. Your job is to review the annual, aggregate performance of an employee, not just the last three months. The employee may have struggled near the end of the year, while the rest of their year was great. Conversely, they could be knocking it out of the park currently, but struggled the majority of the year.

What can you do to make sure your review captures the entire year?

Hopefully, you have folders with each employee’s name in which you saved quick notes throughout the year, documenting what went well and areas needing improvement. But what if you didn’t? Now all you have is a blank screen with the incessant blinking of the cursor mocking you for not remembering what you had for breakfast this morning, let alone something that happened eight months ago.

To help recover your memory of past performance, below are three sources of great potential content for employee reviews.

Check your “Sent” Email

A good place to start is email. Outlook allows you to filter by employee name, after which you just start scrolling down the list. Granted, a lot of it will be routine, non-performance appraisal-related items; but you will come across a number of emails that jog your memory and is a perfect topic for a well-rounded performance review, including examples.

Scroll Through Your Calendar

Another great tool is your calendar. Take a walk down memory lane and review all meetings held over the year. Perhaps an employee played a large part in the success of customer visits, off-site meetings, or other special events. Conversely, there could be examples of meetings or events that could have gone more smoothly. 

Ask Others for Input

Nobody works in a vacuum. Tap into other people that an employee works with to find great sources of feedback. Ask for specific examples where they think the employee does well and areas they feel they could be improved. You can then pair their responses with themes that emerge from email and calendar.

Annual employee reviews are usually pretty low on the list of things managers love to do, but done well, are impactful to your company and meaningful for the employee. Use the sources of information above when memory fails, and watch examples for the review flood out.

Who knows, you may even start acting like you enjoy doing performance reviews.

And this year’s Oscar goes to…