Every year, employees worldwide enter annual performance reviews with mixed feelings. Do employees enter these conversations with enthusiasm to learn new things? Rarely. Are managers eager to have these conversations and coach their employees on how they can improve in the coming year? No.
These meetings are typically experienced as difficult conversations. Opportunities for learning and relationship-building are often missed.
In an ideal world, employees would learn and improve from the feedback their manager provides in the annual review. But there are at least two obstacles that can stand in the way of that best-case scenario.
It can be hard to hear painful truths. Critical feedback can trigger defensive reactions: That’s wrong. Who are you to say? This is a disaster, and I’ll never be able to improve.
And, even if employees are receptive to the intended message, they may have trouble understanding the information and face difficulties implementing the feedback to improve their performance.
In an effort to get through, managers may try to soften their delivery. For example, they may use the much-maligned “feedback sandwich,” which bookends a critique between two compliments. But this tactic can obscure truthful and useful information, resulting in confusion, misunderstandings and worse.