How to Relieve the Stress of Performance Reviews

How to Relieve the Stress of Performance Reviews

stressed employee

Every employee is familiar with the anxiety and tension that builds when it is time for performance reviews. Something that not everyone realises is that performance reviews are stressful for managers too. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to be fair, honest, and open about employee performance, but it has to be done in a way that is constructive and sensitive to the personalities of each individual employee on the team.

Fortunately for employers that are getting ready for performance reviews, there are a few tips that can be followed by those wondering how to relieve the stress of performance reviews. With an understanding of the best practices for performance reviews and an even-tempered approach to this process, you can make sure that your performance reviews go smoothly and everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

Informing Your Team

One of the first things you should do when considering how to relieve the stress of performance reviews is to make sure that everyone knows when and where these reviews will take place. Is everyone getting their review on the same day, or will you break it down by department? If possible, you should create a consistent schedule so that there are no surprise reviews throughout the year.

Aside from just telling your team members when their reviews will take place, you should also let them know what the review will entail. It is simply not good etiquette to have your employees go into a review blindly, without any kind of knowledge of what they will be evaluated for. Your company should have easily accessible documentation regarding performance reviews that covers all of the performance areas for which your team can expect to be reviewed.

Review Frequencies

Another big way to minimise the stress and negative feelings that many people have about performance reviews is holding them more often. Remember that you do not need to have an official meeting or block out time for performance reviews. A few casual words while you are at someone’s desk or passing them in the hallway can serve to help your team get an idea of how they are doing.

Research backs up this theory as well; according to Catalina Andrade, a HR manager at an Australian marketing agency, more frequent direct feedback that is given in an empathetic manner leads to your employees being less defensive when they do receive negative feedback. Because of this, and the fact that frequent positive feedback helps employees feel better about their value to the organisation, you should be striving to give feedback to your team as often as possible. This is also a key factor when considering how to relieve the stress of performance reviews for all parties involved.

performance review

Handling the Review

When it comes to methods for how to conduct a performance review, first remember to relax. You should talk to your employees normally and in the manner you usually do. Also, try not to draw out your performance review for too long. Begin with an introduction or a bit of small talk, make your points, answer any questions that the employee has, and then end the review.

Once it comes time to give the actual review, it will always be harder to offer negative feedback than positive feedback. Many communications specialists advise people who give feedback to use what is called a “critique sandwich.” Using this technique, you surround one negative critique with two positive critiques.

An example of a critique sandwich might go like this: “John, I appreciate your willingness to help out with projects outside of your area of responsibility; it really adds value to the office. I wish you were a little bit more punctual about turning in your weekly reports; let’s work on that for the future. Also, thank you for volunteering to stay late last week to help train our new employee. That was very selfless of you.” By using this technique, you make negative feedback less damaging, while still addressing the issue and offering a solution.

Setting a Plan

Another critical part of your performance review is setting goals. You need to give your employees a plan for how to improve their areas of poor performance, how long it should take them to do so, and how often you will check in on these areas. Make sure you get some input from your employees about their goals; this helps them feel more strongly about these goals and makes them more likely to fulfill them.


While performance reviews can be a stressful undertaking, if you get ready far enough in advance and thoroughly consider how to relieve the stress of performance reviews, it is possible to make them a smooth and productive part of your business.

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