RCT Blog


This is the time of year when managers start preparing annual performance reviews for their direct reports. It goes by many names, but you know what I’m talking about.  It’s the document and the discussion that many dread.  Twelve months of work evaluated, capturing performance versus goals, highlighting accomplishments and noting areas where you missed the mark.


I could write pages and pages about what a fair and effective annual performance discussion looks like.  But today I want to zero in on one aspect with laser focus: NO SURPRISES

That’s right.  No surprises.  There should be nothing in that document or discussion that is “new news” to the employee.  Waiting until the annual review to have a first discussion about a short coming or area for development is the ultimate “gotcha.”  It is simply unfair.  If the manager had had that discussion with the employee earlier in the year, there would have been opportunity for the employee to turn that behavior around. Waiting until the annual review for a first discussion on a problem behavior or subpar performance is unconscionable.


What’s the answer?  Hold performance discussions throughout the year. Be disciplined and focused on providing specific feedback – what’s going well and what needs to improve. This goes beyond the informal, “Hey, how’s that project coming?” or “Wow, you’re really low on those sales numbers!” This is a scheduled, focused meeting on performance: What progress has been made on their goals? What is their plan for reaching those goals? What hurdles are they facing? What help do they need?  Is the goal still relevant? Where do they need to grow and develop in their skills and knowledge? What progress have they made?


Managers, when you are providing solid feedback throughout the year, the annual review is just that – a review of the year.  No surprises.



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