Seven tips for a productive atmosphere in performance reviews

Kerstin Boll
Leadership skills

Conducting modern performance reviews

Seven tips for a productive atmosphere in performance reviews

At the end of the year, performance reviews are on the agenda in most companies. Some of us have had unpleasant experiences. Performance reviews are therefore often accompanied by mixed feelings.

How can we succeed in turning a tiresome mandatory event into a meaningful encounter and a genuine dialogue?

Conducting modern performance reviews: What has changed?

The world of work is changing. We discuss new work, change, changing values and self-actualization. The expectations of performance reviews have also changed under this influence.

In the past, supervisors used performance reviews as an opportunity to set strict guidelines for developmental paths.

Nowadays, it is much more about exploring individual development opportunities as well as giving employees an incentive to reflect on themselves, their work and their position in the company.

Dialogue instead of directives

"When done correctly, a performance review is one of the best opportunities to encourage and support high performers and constructively improve mid- and low-level employees." says Kathryn Minshew (b. 1985). She is an American entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder of The Muse, a career development platform.

Kathryn Minshew herewith formulates a philosophy or course of action. In this regard:

  • Performance reviews are a key leadership and human resource development tool.

  • They promote the exchange of information.

  • And they provide an opportunity to shape the relationship between the employee and the manager.

Seven tips for successful performance reviews

What can you do as a manager to ensure a good and constructive performance review? We have put together seven simple and pragmatic tips for you:


There are many different varieties of performance reviews, they each have their own tasks and goals. They can be an opportunity for encouragement, but also for criticism. In any case, the content of the conversation is personal.

Taking this into consideration, the meeting should be in a pleasant, quiet and neutral space without traffic. If the conversation has to take place in your office for lack of alternatives, a sitting area is more appropriate than the desk. You can already send a positive signal with a favorable spatial setting.


If the performance review shall become an open, personal and trusting meeting, take a moment to warm up. Very few people present their innermost feelings right after the greeting.

Therefore the calculated time for the interview should not be too short. Scheduling a subsequent meeting directly after the performance review also has an unfavorable effect: You run the risk of keeping your eyes on the clock and your mind drifting off into the next meeting.


It's a good idea to prepare for the performance review: What kind of conversation are we talking about - feedback? Setting goals? Development Annual review? What is the goal? Which topics should be addressed? Are documents necessary?

Also, adjust to your employee: How did they receive the invitation? Do they know what to expect? What kind of type are they: What's the best way to approach them? How do you relate to one another? Do you anticipate objections or resistance?


Greet your employee in a friendly manner and thank them for coming. This indicates your openness to meeting them. For the introductory small talk, open-ended questions such as "How are you doing?" or "You were on vacation in so-and-so weren't you?" How did you like it?"

Give them space

Allow your employee to express their perspective on things. Listen to them without interruption and take notes. The only exception: Comprehension questions.

Express appreciation

Misconduct or underperformance must be addressed at some point. Of course, performance reviews are the place to do that. In addition, take the opportunity to say something positive and to motivate your employee.

Performance reviews at PINKTUM

Performance reviews are an opportunity to stay close and connected to employees. Personal boundaries, misunderstandings, irritations or dissonances can be identified early on with the help of performance reviews, before they turn into a problem. That's why it's worthwhile to study preparation as well as conversation and questioning techniques - also in online settings.

More information about our e⁠-⁠learning course: "Constructively and Sustainably Conducting Discussions with Employees" is available on our website, or contact us directly.

We are happy to set up guest access for individuals managing human resources.

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