Understand the importance of the performance review and how it can be both stressful and rewarding.

In the performance cycle, where “feedback” is the informal review of the employee’s performance, offering little nudges and encouragement along the way, the “review” is the formal review, typically tied to a specific period of time and governed more strongly by the company’s HR practices and policies. Analogously, “feedback” corresponds to the delivery step of each agile sprint, where “review” corresponds to the cumulative delivery of the epics or features that were broken into sprints in the first place.

In other words, the “performance review” is a big deal for everybody.

For your employees, it is literally the moment in which they receive their grade for the quarter (or year) that will determine a number of things that are—literally—life changing. They may get promoted, they may get demoted, they may get the larger bonus they were hoping to use for the down payment on their house… or not. It’s stressful, particularly because if they’ve worked for poor managers in the past, it will feel like it’s entirely outside of their control.

Stress. Take a hard look at that last sentence: Stress is, by definition, anxiety about things outside of our control. But if we are speaking of the employee’s performance, it should stand to reason that they should never stress about the review, because by any reasonable measure, they control their own performance. If they feel stress, it’s because they worry, deep down, that they will be held accountable to things over which they don’t have control. If your expectations were clear, and your feedback consistent, then they should be pretty ready to know what their performance review will say. Conversely, if they’re stressed, it’s a “coaching opportunity,” but for you—not them.

And for us as managers, it’s equally stressful, not only because of the time commitment that each review requires, but because we are being asked—nay, required—to stand in judgement of other people. Deep down, it’s uncomfortable.

But, done right, a formal performance review need not be stressful, uncomfortable, or incredibly time-consuming; and it can yield some positive results. After all, when you think about it, if as a manager your fundamental responsibility is to get results through your people, then this is the opportunity to conduct a systematic assessment of their work and either award them or correct them. In many respects, this is what they spend the performance period working towards.

Fortunately, if you’ve followed the precepts of this course and put the things we talk about in here into action, the formal review will actually be much, much easier and faster, and—potentially—maybe even a little fun. After all, giving a formal review to an employee who’s struggling feels terrible, but when you can give your employee a glowing positive review, and they practically bounce out of the meeting, excited and ready to take on the next new thing, that kind of feeling is contagious.

And rewarding.

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