Performance reviews – friend or foe?

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Performance reviews can be the perfect opportunity to engage employees, encourage change and increase performance…

Performance Review
Sadly though, and all too often, they’re the source of grief for employees and managers alike as the discussion focuses on weaknesses and ways to plug gaps.

Additionally, if an employee anticipates an attack on their performance they are going to be diverted from what they should be doing to preparing a robust defence. If the review goes badly a demoralised employee can spend days recovering from the negative effects. Such negativity will have a detrimental impact on productivity, as time diverted is time wasted.

Stress and negativity flood the body with cortisol – which shuts down our ability to think clearly and relate to others. Clearly undesirable attributes in any workplace!

The good news is:

There is another way. A strength-based approach that focuses on what ‘has’ been achieved, what the member of staff has learned, and what they want to do differently going forward.

The naysayers amongst you may be wondering ‘what if the employee has underperformed and needs to be pulled up on their performance’. The truth is – by telling them this, you will only create resistance and denial, which will do little to improve their performance.


As discussed in previous blogs – It’s indisputable that the brain changes its structure significantly through the course of our lives. Our experiences create hard-wired mental maps in our brain that account for habits and behaviours, both good and bad.

We are what we repeatedly do – Aristotle

Focusing on problems, deficits and underachievement will only serve to embed the behaviours you are trying to change, therefore having the opposite effect than you intend.

Focus your performance reviews on solutions – not problems!

In contrast – a solution-focused approach looks at what has been achieved and is all about developing the potential of the employee (not pulling apart their current performance). It is progressive and forward looking, which is energising for all involved and is important for developing the new brain circuitry that encourages new habits and change (a key component of better performance).

Follow up performance reviews with FEELING

To ensure this new circuitry becomes hardwired it needs to be exercised as much as possible. Asking questions and encouraging the employee to think about issues themselves will have this effect. ‘Telling’ and giving advice only has a short-term impact and fails to embed change or develop the employee’s potential!

How would you rate your company’s performance reviews? Are you focusing on problems or solutions? Discover David Rock’s (Neuroleadership Institute) FEELING model, which further embeds positive change in the workplace.

Your people make the difference – keep them happy

If you want to be the #1 place to work AND get top results from your people take a look at our employee engagement solutions or check our events schedule for a seminar near you.

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