Performance Review Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance Review Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance Reviews Should be about Facts not Emotions

Performance reviews are one of the most unpleasant activities for a manager. And they are also unpleasant for the employee. Too often managers make the performance review about their opinion. Too many managers get hung up on how they feel about the employee and their performance rather than on the facts. When this happens it creates a tense situation where each side becomes embedded in their own emotionally charged beliefs.

Facts Not Feelings

When evaluating an employee’s performance you should always focus on facts and not on feelings. When speaking about things that need to improve avoid phrases like: “I think…”, “I feel…”, “I believe…”. While you may think, feel, and believe these things use facts to support the improvements you would like to see and to demonstrate where the employee has fallen short.

When we use subjective terms based on feelings it puts the employee into an emotionally defensive position. They may very justly feel that they are being picked on; that your valuation of them is based on feelings instead of facts.

As an example: you have an employee who is not meeting performance expectations. They do not consistently meet productivity numbers, they have too much down time, and they leave a piece of equipment set up poorly.

If you did your homework you have tracked the incidences where expectations were not met. You have dates and numbers to back up your beliefs so that they aren’t beliefs, but are actual facts. It is hard to argue with facts. Also, facts are not based on emotions. Just be careful that your fact gathering isn’t emotionally charged. You need to be gathering facts for all employees not just ones you don’t like.

Clear Expectations

As a result of unclear expectations performance review become confrontational. When a manager fails to set clear expectations and identify successful outcomes an employee becomes confused as to what they need to do to be successful. The result is that the review becomes the managers personal judgement of the employee from a subjective point of view. The manager might have known what they expected, but if they did a poor job of communicating it then there will be a lot of stress and anxiety on the part of the employee when it comes to the review of their performance.

Make sure that you have metrics to judge performance and that they have been clearly communicated and are reasonable in order to keep expectations clear. Do not make expectations so tough that there is no hope of meeting them, but at the same time do not make them so easy that they do not challenge your people.

Check in with employees on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to let them know how they are doing. Failure to communicate with your people in regard to how they are doing throughout the year will create anxiety when it comes to the performance review. Frequent check ins also allow employees a chance to correct problem performance before the annual performance review.

It’s not Personal

A performance review shouldn’t be about egos. It isn’t about whether or not you personally like the person. Let’s face it there are going to be employees who have personalities that don’t sync with our own. Your personality may rub some of your employees wrong. This is just human nature. We aren’t going to like every person we manage and not every person we manage is going to like us.

Don’t take things personally. You need to do your best to remove your own personal biases from the process and focus on objective measures to give a fair and accurate performance appraisal.

The objective of the performance review is to give the employee facts to improve their performance; to let them know what they are doing well and where they need to improve. The purpose is to help the employee improve and to help the company as a whole improve.

Another important aspect to consider is counterfactual thinking which is defined as “thinking focused on how the past might have been, or the present could be, different. These thoughts are usually triggered by negative events that block one’s goals and desires” (Psychology).


Managers and employees should not see performance reviews as an uncomfortable and necessary evil. It should be a time to give positive praise as well as constructive criticism. The focus should be aimed at improving employee performance and helping the employee understand how they can best support the company in meeting goals.

If you are communicating expectations clearly and having frequent discussion with your employees throughout the year there should be minimal anxiety when going into the annual performance review process. If employees know where they stand, and have received frequent feedback, it decreases anxiety as they know what to expect when it comes to performance review time.

Good record keeping and frequent tracking of performance will give you the facts you need to give a fair, unbiased assessment of performance. Avoid emotional based valuations. Stick to facts – what are the expectations, where has the employee fallen short (clear examples), and what needs to be done to meet expectations.

It is never easy to judge other people and tell them the truth, but it is absolutely essential to the success of any business. It is not just about the needs of the business but also those of the employee. Giving fair, honest, and unemotional performance reviews will help employees perform their jobs to a higher level. If you show genuine concern for the employees, and their personal improvement, it will help to diffuse the emotional nature of performance appraisals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *