It’s time for that employee review and you’re dreading it. You feel completely unprepared. You don’t feel good about the employee’s performance, but you don’t have any real data to back that feeling up.

You know the employee is expecting some type of raise and feedback on their performance, but you’re at a loss for how to begin. You go through the motions of filling out the performance review worksheet, but don’t feel great about the entire process so you put it off…Sound familiar?

I believe much of the anxiety around performance reviews and managing employee performance has to do with the initial expectation setting.

I realized this when one day when I got frustrated with my 8-year-old son. I told him I wanted him to begin taking out the trash. I’d been taking out the trash for all of my adult life so the task seemed pretty simple to me. My son’s job was to collect all the trash in the house each Sunday night and put in new trash bags in all the receptacles. He was to then take those smaller bags of trash and put them in the larger receptacle outside, then take that large container out to the street. Once the garbage collector emptied the bins, the bins should be brought back in and put next to the garage. Sounds pretty simple. Unfortunately, I didn’t give him these detailed instructions. All I told him to do was to “take out the trash”. I expected him to perform the way I had performed, but never explained my expectations.

Sunday rolled around and I noticed that he didn’t put new trash bags in the smaller trash cans. I got frustrated and told him that was part of the job. I came home from work Monday night and the trash cans were still sitting on the street. One had even rolled over on its side. Again, frustrated I told him that taking in the cans was “part of his job”. The fact is, I never told him that I expected these things, I just went straight to getting frustrated.

I think this is what happens on a much more complicated scale with employees. We have expectations which may or may not be clear in our own minds (that’s a bigger problem by the way) and the employee has an idea of what they think our expectations are. Many times, the employee develops a picture of our expectations based on our reactions (positively or negatively) over the review period. This is certainly a prescription for disaster.

How do you avoid this uncomfortable feeling during review time? More importantly how do you drive the results you’d like to see?

  1. Ensure the employees knows how their performance will be measured

Are you 100% clear on how each role or employee’s performance will be measured? If so, great. If not, figure this out immediately.

I like to think of this in terms of key results or outcomes. What key results or outcomes are you expecting from this person or role? Are they written down and explicitly stated? Would both you and your employee agree on what those key results or outcomes are?

This tends to be pretty tricky because it forces you to really think through each role and what YOU think is important. You may find that what YOU think is important isn’t really important and you may need to change your expectations.

Action Item: Pick role in your organization and define the top 3-5 key results or outcomes you desire out of that role:

To make it easier we’ve created a FREE accountability chart


  1. Check-in (regularly) and provide feedback

Back to the example of my son’s performance. If I never checked in and reviewed his performance, he would have no idea that his performance wasn’t up to the standard I was expecting. Who knows, the trash cans could be rolling around on the street all week. Of course, the work environment is much more complex and these issues (frustrations) tend to build up over time.

Pretty soon a manager is frustrated with an employee and they can’t put their finger on exactly why they are frustrated. Since conflict can be uncomfortable, some managers just don’t provide the feedback which just makes things worse.

Action Item: Put a meeting on your calendar to meet with each of your direct reports at least two times per month.

  1. Have a system to track the feedback and KPI / metrics

Since performance reviews typically review some period of time in the past, managers need some way of capturing the employee’s key results and feedback so they can be as accurate as possible when reviewing the employee’s performance.

Action Item: Sign up for a Free Demo of Envisionable.


We suggest using a tool like Envisionable to keep track of weekly 1 on 1 discussions as well as employee KPIs (key performance indicators) – remember this is how you are going to ensure employees understand how their performance will be measured. It’s how you’re keeping score.

I hope these three steps will help you in removing the stress of performance reviews from both you and your employees. The performance management process can be an extremely powerful tool for helping to drive both company performance and employee growth.