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What do you gain from performance reviews?

Only 36% of managers complete appraisals thoroughly and on time. In one recent survey, 55% of employees said their most recent performance review had been unfair or inaccurate, and one in four said they dread such evaluations more than anything else in their working lives.

HBR’s Finding the Coaching in Criticism



Many of us see ourselves eager to learn, then why do many people not resonate with performance reviews, or even get emotional during the process? The HBR’s article “Find the Coaching in Criticism” rightfully pointed out ‘The (feedback receiving) process strikes at the tension between two core human needs - the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are. As a result, even a seemingly benign suggestion can leave you feeling angry, anxious, badly treated, or profoundly threatened.’


What triggers those negative emotions? Saboteurs. Simply put, they are the negative thoughts sabotaging us, or our perceived identities. They exist in our survival brain; calling out dangers to keep us safe. Nevertheless, they also consume lots of our energies for self-doubting or being stuck in our own perspectives. No matter how constructive the feedback is or how the feedback givers say ‘don’t take this personally,’ the saboteurs will lead us to think, for example:

  • ”Am I good enough to be accepted?”

  • ”Oh know, people think I suck.”

  • ”Why do people overlook my contributions but pick on 1-2 things I am not perfect at? Where is the respect?”

  • ”Who do they think they are to say these? They never model these attributes themselves.”

Without being aware of these saboteurs, our desire to learn will be overshadowed by these negative emotions. As managers are learning to give feedback, we can also learn to receive feedback. Having the self-awareness toward your emotions is the first step. The manifestation of your emotions is rooted from your values - you feel thrived when your values are being honored, or vice versa. Then, unpack what is being said vs. what you think is being said. Saboteurs tend to lead us to believe one single perspective when there are different ones. Stay curious to ask for clarity. Third, a great tip from Positive Intelligence: believe there is at least 10% true in what people say, and then explore further. Let’s honor the need to learn in the performance review process.


Two additional thoughts:

  • Practice gratitude: If your managers do not care about your development, they cold choose to go diplomatic instead of giving you the genuine feedback. No one feels comfortable to have difficult conversations.

  • Show compassion: When you think receiving the feedback is hard, be empathetic to the other end of the table: it’s also challenging for those giving you the feedback.

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