Creepin’ it real: 4 Chilling Myths about Performance Reviews

Let’s forget about ghosts, pontianaks, and a whole town of assorted creatures roaming the streets and under your bed tonight. As the final quarter of the year approaches, some of us are equally terrified for a completely different reason.

Pull the curtains, dim the lights. Let the story begin.

There I was sitting in a dark, windowless office, preparing for a presentation the day after. Deep in thought and resisting the urge to sneak a quick nap, I pulled myself up and reached for the stained coffee mug when a notification popped up on my screen.

“We have scheduled your annual performance review for 3pm on November 1, 2022.”

Struggling with the fear of performance appraisal is like being stuck in the mud – it’s just no fun. Fear often has far-reaching effects, making employees feel small and anxious because of the unpredictability of their job performance. The thought of having one-on-one feedback sessions without context, not knowing if you’ll be congratulated or admonished is pretty unnerving.

Why are performance reviews necessary? In theory, it is designed to increase the productivity of a company’s employees through constructive conversation. The more feedback an employee receives, the more likely they are to feel that their efforts are being recognized. 

It’s only human nature to feel anxious about being judged. When it comes to situations that are out of our control, we tend to go along with our own fearful narratives by assuming the worst.

List out 3 possible reasons why your performance review could go horribly wrong. If nothing pops up, chances are it’s the unknown that worries you, not your actual job performance.

Performance Appraisal Myths We Know All Too Well

You’ve been executing your deliverables, working across departments, and adding value to the team to the best of your ability. You believe wholeheartedly you are off to a great start. But does your manager feel the same way?

A study by Randstad found that eight in ten employees in Malaysia feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback from their managers. 84% said that they work in an environment where feedback can be shared with one another at any time.

As much as the current workforce encourages employee feedback, common myths about performance appraisals still prevail, which might pose an obstacle for organizations to make two-way communication a workplace priority.

1. Performance appraisals are a waste of time 

When conducted effectively, performance reviews play a central role in motivating employees and helping them reach their fullest potential. A successful appraisal is equally important to everyone in setting new targets and developing professional goals.

Cardy and Dobbins defined the appraisal system as a tool for organizations to encourage employees to improve their performance and productivity in Performance Appraisal: Alternative Perspectives.

Even if employees are already performing, this session allows for a thorough assessment to learn your key strengths and where you stand within the organization. If you don’t take the initiative to check in with your manager and confirm that your contributions are on track with theirs, it’s easy to feel discouraged, confused, and even a little insecure.

Knowing your place is hugely beneficial to your career. That’s how you identify whether you’re adding value to the company and have what it takes to negotiate a raise or promotion.

2. Performance appraisals are based solely on the completion of goals

It’s one thing to crank through your list and complete your daily do’s. It’s another to show the commitment to push past boundaries and get the career growth you need.

Having “the talk” with your manager is more than simply ticking off a checklist and waiting to be assigned new tasks. While the term ‘review’ emphasizes looking back, they should also be forward-thinking. Yesterday’s rules might not apply today. Take this time to review your priorities and personal development plans.

Here’s a little tip: Keeping your passion and daily grind entwined is a surefire way of telling your manager that you’re invested in building a fulfilling career. Shavon Brown, a Manager of Learning and Development at Squarespace shared that being stuck in the same position for too long does more harm than good. It will eventually limit your potential to grow

If you’re so lucky to be doing something that excites you, build on it, align your goals with it and never let it go.

3. Negative feedback means you’re probably getting fired soon

In most workplaces, poor performance reviews don’t necessarily mean you’re on the verge of getting fired. Ratings alone do not speak for themselves, but rather it is meant to make you correct your course. 

Use negative feedback as a reality check. Take proactive steps to ask questions and schedule check-ins with your manager. It keeps you on track knowing there’s another person to review your work in progress on a regular basis.

Don’t get defensive and argue back even if you think the feedback is not justified, or they may not be inclined to share it with you in the future. Instead, jot down the comments and ask for feedback from other colleagues you’ve worked with.

It’s vital that employees have access to superiors who offer support through meaningful feedback, which helps them commit to their career objectives and learn any areas that may need improvement. 

4. Managers talk and employees listen

Performance reviews should be a two-way, individualized conversation that improves employee motivation and align their efforts. But all too often, the session is concluded with a sigh of relief and crucial concerns are not addressed.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to performance discussions, managers and employees should equally contribute to the conversation where they can address organizational goals and future-focused plans of the company.

This gives employees a chance to be forthcoming about their feelings and openly discuss a way forward together. In turn, the managers will get a clear idea of how to support and motivate their team members. 

Here are some questions to ask your manager and make the most out of your performance appraisal:

  • What you can do better for the next quarter
  • What goals you should be working toward
  • What you can do to qualify for a promotion
  • To understand how your progress is being evaluated
  • The opportunities available for your career development
  • To find out if there is room for growth within the department

Do You Get Spooked Easily?

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” – Stephen King

Prone to panic attacks every single time a performance review gets put on your calendar? There’s nothing scarier than overthinking a simple process that is meant to assess your growth within the company. 

When you know what to expect, go in with the right mindset, and try to eliminate surprises, you’ll find that appraisals are more productive and enjoyable than you ever thought possible. 

All you need to do is push the conversation and ask. Simple as that.

Tips on effective communication in the workplace: