Employee Performance Review

Surviving the Appraisal Interview

Tips and techniques for your next employee performance review



“Would you like to know about the techniques that ensure a successful employee performance review?”

Done properly the appraisal interview provides a closing formality to the year that was while setting a foundation for a promising year ahead.  So, let’s make sure you get the most out of each employee performance review.

Overview: The Performance Appraisal Interview

The appraisal interview can be seen as an opportunity for you to

  • Strengthen your relationship with your employees through open and honest dialogue
  • Identify areas for development, within your employee’s current role
  • Discuss your employees feelings and attitudes towards the work environment
With these positive outcomes it is strange that so many managers find the performance appraisal interview to be a daunting experience, they often delay their appraisal interviews until they are forced to have them.


Your employee’s self servicing bias will lead most of them to believe that their performance is above average, though the statistical reality is that 50% of employees must be performing below average. This lack of self awareness on the part of the employee is what makes the performance discussion daunting.

If you are having regular, meaningful one on one’s with each of your employees, you will find that your performance appraisal interviews become less daunting, as there will be no surprises for your employees.

Don’t Delay

Any delay to your employee performance reviews will make your people feel devalued, if it is not important enough for you to find time to complete your employee reviews, you cannot really value your employees.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who Participates in the Employee Performance Review?
  • The performance appraisal interview is normally completed between the employee and their immediate supervisor, (the person who best knows about the employee’s performance). In most companies the appraisal interview is an annual review, often with a mid year progress review.

  • Do you have a one on one in the month of your employee performance reviews?
  • Ideally, you will complete a monthly one-on-one with each of your employees. (Normally, 9 one on ones, 2 performance reviews and 1 month with no review when either you or your employee are on leave).

  • How much notice do you give your employees of the Appraisal interview?
  • Typically both the manager and employee will need time to prepare for their performance review, it would be ideal to allow between one and two hours per employee for preparation and an hour for the performance discussion. However it is wise to allow some time between employees in-case your conversations run over the allocated time.

  • Do you confirm next years performance targets in the appraisal interview?
  • Normally the performance review is separated a discussion on next year’s performance objectives and the employee’s development needs. The reason for this separation is normally the amount of time required to prepare for and have both discussions. 

  • If the employee is a poor performing employee, can I issue a warning in the performance appraisal interview?
  • If the employee is not performing it would be unusual to use the performance review session as a counselling session, poor performance is normally managed outside of this forum.


    Areas to emphasise in your performance appraisal

    During your performance appraisal you could discuss many things, however it is best to stick to a narrow list of topics, the following is a list if items that you should include during your discussion

    1. Emphasise performance strengths
    2. Suggest alternative ways to perform
    3. Focus on opportunities for growth that fit within the employees current position
    4. Limit growth to a few reasonable points that can be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe



    A Successful Employee Performance Review

    A successful performance review does not just happen, these successful employee reviews are the result of you

    • Being prepared
    • Following a good structure in your performance appraisal interview
    • Having some techniques to deal with difficult people
    • Being consistent with feedback that you provided during the year, there should be no surprises

    Now, let’s look at each in detail
    For generous content on being prepared, click here and you will be navigated to our Preparing for a performance interview web page.



    Follow a good interview structure

    As with all meetings it is important to have an agenda for an employee performance review. The following agenda should help you to get the most out of your review meeting.

    • Discussion Phase
      • Emphasis the employees strengths and discuss how these strengths can be built on
      • Focus discussion on observable behaviour
    • Rating phase (options)
      • Tell the employee your rating and sell your reasons to them
      • Tell the employee your rating and discuss the ratings
      • Discuss each rating collaboratively and agreeing on final rating
    • Development Phase
      • Discuss opportunities for growth within the employee’s current position
      • Limit the number of growth items to the amount that can delivered in a reasonable timeframe
      • If the employee is high performing, discuss career development
    • Recap rating and next steps


    Sample Agenda

    Employee Performance Review



    Techniques to deal with difficult people

    If you are giving open honest and constructive feedback, from time to time you will come across someone who is aggressive, defensive or who simply remain silent.
    What do you do when you encounter this type of person?

    • Remain calm
    • Focus on the employees behaviour
    • Be specific and give examples
    • Keep focusing back on the specific behaviour or performance that you are rating

    What not to do

    • Raise your voice
    • Accept blame, the employee is accountable for their performance and for their behaviour



    Techniques for your next Employee Performance Review


    You may find that the following techniques will help you with your review meeting

    • Listen more than you talk (say 30%) the rest of the time you should be listening to your employee’s responses to your questions

    • Ask open questions, to provide the employee with opportunities to provide detailed responses.

    • Probe areas of interest by asking follow up questions

    • Reflect the employees feelings

    • It can be very useful to ask the employee how they are feeling and let them talk themselves out, especially if there has been considerable change in the business. This technique provides an opportunity for the employee to vent early in the session, so that the rest of the discussion is not impeded by the employees pent up feelings.



    Be consistent with feedback that you have provided during the year

    Ensure that you align the feedback during the year with the feedback you give in your employee performance review, you can do this by aligning your performance criteria with your one on ones. Click here to find out how.



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