Zoom in on a perfect annual review

Zoom in on a perfect annual review

Whether you're the reviewer—or the reviewee—it's time to embrace a new outlook on employee reviews. Hint: The manager may be doing them wrong.
Jun 01, 2013

I recently visited a practice where a manager bemoaned the fact she was weeks behind on her reviews. She motioned to a stack of papers and the current screen up on her computer. Before her bleary eyes were a series of questions followed by numbers one through five. She was agonizing over each grade. A five? A four? A three? Worse? The longer she worked on the project, the more immobilized she became. "Will a four demoralize my team member? What do I put down for her personal appearance? How can I give her less than a five?" She asked for my advice.

"What are you trying to accomplish?" I responded. And this is where she fell silent.

The reason she and so many managers struggle with even the idea of reviews is because we're often unclear of what we're trying to accomplish and why. If you don't believe me, consider the personal appearance question you see on some generic review sheets. You really waited a full year to bring up the fact that someone had a problem with his or her personal appearance? Worse, you're going to predicate their salary on their personal appearance? What is the message you're trying to send? Cleaner people make more money? When you add up everything you and your team are trying to accomplish with client service, patient care and workplace culture, you're really going to spend part of that one hour, once a year, talking about grooming and deodorant?

Now, if you're the reviewee, you're probably thinking you have no control over the review process—and that's partially true. But reviews should be a dialogue. Don't be afraid to gently redirect the conversation to the line items on your job description. Make sure that your manager understands that your actions are a response to your understanding of those bullets. An example of a redirect might be: "I'm aware that I sometimes appear frantic. During crunch times, I start to fail and I get flustered, which becomes apparent in my actions and appearance. I would love help on how I can juggle all of my assigned duties during our busiest times so that I don't look and sound like I'm melting down."

Clear the haze

Zoom out for a moment. Who are you? Who are these people you're reviewing? This isn't school and these people in front of you aren't children. These adults sitting across the table from you are functioning members of society. They're probably homeowners; they may be married and they may be parents; they are probably graduates of high school or higher levels of education; and they're probably over the age of 21. Pick some calamity: a car accident, a sick child, a flood—whatever happens to them, they'll figure it out and move on. And here's the kicker. They don't need your help to do it. They'll work their way through the problem and move on with their lives.

Now, zoom back in to the review table. You're on one side and they're on the other. Are you really going to give them instructions on how to dress? Are you going to give them hollow advice like, "Be more careful?"

What success rate do you get out of the instruction, "Be careful?" These able adults sitting across from you don't need their behavior reviewed by you or anyone else. The idea itself is insulting, and to most people it's a complete turnoff.

A review is an opportunity for you and your team members to dig deeper into your respective responsibilities as you execute your practice's mission goals. Think about it for a moment. You and 15 or more individuals gather each day under one roof, endeavor to complete any number of diverse and complicated activities and try to seamlessly dovetail your efforts into an amazing client and patient experience. That's hard. And to get it right, you shouldn't be dressing down a person's character. You should be thinking about how their actions and your actions work together to accomplish goals. That's a productive, positive experience. That's teamwork.