Performance Reviews: Meaningful Growth Stems from Meaningful Dialog


Most employees aren’t ecstatic to hear the words “performance review time.” While a good portion know it’s important for their personal and professional development, the words still create a sense of discomfort. And for those who are defensive about performance reviews, those words engender more than discomfort.

Employees are not the only ones who find reviews uncomfortable. Managers find them equally unsettling – especially when faced with a defensive personality. Good managers know, however, that it’s important to find a way to deliver a review that the employee will hear and take to heart.

So, how do you do that? Put your courageous communication skills into action. Even if the person is not your employee by next year’s review, the information you impart will help that person grow and develop.


I’ve known many managers who struggle with NPS – Nice Person Syndrome. They’re uncomfortable being the bearers of “bad” news, so they avoid providing critical feedback. This is especially problematic for younger or less experienced managers who tell themselves they’re being compassionate to their employee by avoiding the difficult conversation.

When problems go unaddressed, the NPS manager tells themselves they are being compassionate towards the underperforming or misaligned employee, by “giving him another chance.” However, the manager is actually being uncompassionate to not only the underperforming employee, but the entire employee team.

By succumbing to NPS, the manager is preventing the underperforming employee from having the opportunity to grow by hearing critical feedback. The NPS manager is also being uncompassionate to the entire employee team because the NPS is enabling and perpetuating a culture of underperformance or cultural misalignment, which ultimately weakens the competitiveness of the entire organization.

The good news is that performance reviews don’t have to be uncomfortable if you’ve created a safe, respectful environment and culture. But if you are a little uncomfortable, remember it’s okay to acknowledge that your slight nervousness about sharing some difficult performance related feedback. Be upfront by stating, “As you can tell, I’m a bit uncomfortable, because part of my feedback is difficult to deliver, and I’m not confident that you’ll be receptive to receiving this feedback.”

Assure employees that you care about their success, and remind them if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t take the time to provide the feedback.


Even when you frame your feedback positively, though, you may still be face a truly defensive personality that is adept at avoidance and excuse-making. You will be doing these negative employees a favor if you help them see that their challenges will follow them no matter where they go – and that they will never break through to the next level of performance until they learn to accept and act on feedback received.

It helps to frame your feedback in factual terms. Your review should include specific feedback that will help your employee improve in all areas of his professional responsibilities. Start by highlighting the employee’s positive contributions and accomplishments, then factually move on to the “needs improvement” portion of the review.

In this stage, identify issues that you and the employee will focus on together to ensure meaningful progress is made. It’s hard for an employee to argue with facts (“your productivity has slipped x% over this past year”), but perceptions about attitude, work ethic, etc. are often difficult to prove with factual data.

Be aware, defensive personalities will push back, and attempt to explain why the fact or your perception is incorrect. When this happens, it’s important to remind the employee that fact or perception, it’s their responsibility to correct the fact (performance deficiency), and it’s their responsibility to change your perception. Make it clear that you value them and will support them, provided they do their part.

It’s important that the employee knows you support them fully, and that you’ll help them correct the performance deficiency (agreed upon fact), and also that you’re open having your perception about them change.


Meaningful growth only comes from meaningful feedback. The goal of performance reviews, as well as ongoing feedback, is to ensure your team is going deep, and keeping it real. In other words, get to the heart of the issue that will help an employee grow, achieve their goals, and contribute to the growth and success of them personally, as well as the company.

Practicing avoidance behavior when challenges arise diminishes your culture, and will ultimately repel top talent from your department and company. Providing meaningful feedback regarding performance, attitude, and effort will create positive traction for your department and company. Honest feedback, delivered respectfully and compassionately, will be a magnet for top talent, while repelling C and D players.

If hearing the particulars of this story would help you or your partners, send me a note or give me a call: and (414) 315-0523. You can also get on my calendar directly for a free discovery call here:

My background

My career path started out at IBM before moving on to start, build and eventually sell two technology service companies. From there, I’ve been a global channel development partner, and personal/corporate achievement coach helping leaders and teams break through to the next level. 

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If you or your team needs help breaking through to the next level of performance, or if you have a friend who’d appreciate having access to me as their personal and/or corporate achievement coach, please reach out for a free discovery call or email me at

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Phil Mydlach

Phil Mydlach is a high-performance executive coach who shows people and companies how to break through to their next level of ability, growth, and performance. He partners with them as they lean into their edge to confront the fears that are holding them back.

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