December has quickly made its way back on your desktop calendar, and if you haven’t thought about it yet, your year-end reviews are looming over you. Whether your team smiles welcomingly at your arrival or you see them quickly hide their phones beneath their keyboards, both you and your employees are stressed around this time of year – especially when it comes to those year-end reviews. 

The shocking part is that 75% of employees say dealing with their boss is the most stressful part of their job. There are ways, as a manager, you can help ease that stress and conduct better, more productive reviews. One huge tool you should be using is recognition and review feedback from prior years.

75% of employees say dealing with their boss is the most stressful part of their job.


Stressed Employee about Boss

Here’s how you can prepare for this year’s reviews to make them the best yet:

  1. Prior to the meeting, have employees write down their thoughts and feedback to prepare themselves for the review. Open the interview by asking your employees what they thought of the past year. Most employees will already be a little anxious about the entire situation and may respond with “it was good” or “no complaints.”

    By asking open-ended questions that can’t be responded to with simple answers, you’re more likely to get honest concrete replies. Instead of asking “Are you happy with your performance this year?” ask “What would you say your strengths were over the past year?” That little change in the way you ask questions will boost the impact that the review process will have on employees and the office as a whole.

    If employees can even point out the areas they know needed work, it saves you from having to bring it up to them. You can even respond with “what are some ways you think you might be able to improve in that area over the next year? Let’s brainstorm.”
  2. When you receive negative feedback from employees, respond instead of reacting. “The difference between these two is that responding is building upon something; reacting is acting against. The last thing you want to do is create an adversarial tone,” says an article on Fast Company

    Pay attention to the emotions that can play on your face as well. If you receive a constructive review of last year’s review process and the employee seems to stutter and shrink back at the look on your face, instead smile and say “it’s true that we had a few challenges last year, how do you think this year’s review could be better?”
  3. In a previous article, we described how 90% of employees are actively disengaged after receiving negative feedback. You can open up communication in the workplace by using feedback software and technology to gather thoughts on prior years’ reviews. Try not to allow anonymity, however, unless employees advocate it. Promoting them to use their names is best.

    Many workplace concerns and issues can warrant the confidentiality that being anonymous brings, but when it’s not needed, axing the anonymous part of reviews allows the entire workplace to move towards a unified goal. It also enables you to give recognition and thanks where it’s due. Some employees can actually use the anonymous approach to bash and even induce “hurt feelings” around the workplace, so it can be a struggle to find a good balance of when to allow the secrecy or not. Many survey platforms allow users to choose whether to fill out their names or leave it blank. 

When you receive negative feedback from employees, respond instead of reacting.

Negative Employee Feedback

The role of feedback

65% of employees actually want MORE feedback but aren’t getting it, says Forbes.  Whether it’s because of lack of time or the stress and nerves that come with giving honest feedback, recognition programs relieve both of those issues while creating a safe place to fortify positive feedback from managers as well as other employees. When fellow employees are able to recognize each other and add to the feedback process, that added value to the workplace will resonate through their work and the attitude they bring to the office. This feedback is also a great reference point when conducting reviews.

65% of employees actually want MORE feedback but aren’t getting it

Employees Want Feedback

Oftentimes, feedback is only given when it is constructive or negative in nature. Recognition programs provide the opportunity for managers and employers to contribute celebrations to the year-end reviews. If you can cite clear examples of where employees excelled, it can help balance constructive feedback by reinforcing the positive as well. By utilizing recognition software, feedback can become a healthy balance that can promote engagement among employees rather than negative feelings toward employers. 

In conclusion: Reviews can be very stressful for both managers and employees. Encouraging healthy feedback and communication plays a vital part in productive review processes. Recognition can be a major tool in helping your end-of-year reviews go smoothly. Monitoring and incorporating recognition program feedback allows managers to add positive feedback to go along with constructive criticism that might otherwise be perceived negatively.