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Mid-Year Reviews: Preventing Surprise Outcomes

Mid-year reviews, avoiding performance surprises. Cartoon credit: Mark Anderson

What good mid-year reviews look like

Mid-year reviews are effective when they achieve a few key outcomes:

  • Receiving honest feedback on what is working well, and what needs tweaking or improving
  • Opportunities to explore new project assignments or stretch challenges
  • Securing constructive career-based feedback
  • Directional guidance on relative performance (in preparation for year-end rewards and bonuses)

Reviews, whether mid-year or year-end, should never be a surprise to the person receiving the feedback. Yet, as a coach, I have seen the outcome for too many individuals where the performance feedback result was a complete surprise. These cases rarely end well because for the recipient trust is often severely eroded!

The issue in bad performance review feedback sessions is usually down to the manager or leader. Why do I say this? It generally stems from the fact that too many managers fail to give employees regular feedback. So, you can well imagine that by the time the mid-year or year-end review process arrives, issues are old news (and often since corrected) OR the session tends to overlook early reporting period successes placing more weight on recent experiences. 

The impact is a counterproductive session where feedback feels more like criticism or where praise is well overdue – almost an afterthought. So, what steps can we take as either the leader giving the feedback or the recipient about to receive it, to ensure a better outcome?

Giving performance feedback 

Leaders need to recognize their role in creating actionable and constructive performance management sessions. Preparation and objectivity are essential to achieve a meaningful outcome:

  1. Real-time feedback: Performance evaluation outcomes should never be a surprise, if it is then it’s a clear signal of poor leadership! Timely feedback is essential for an individual to meaningfully improve their performance or behaviour.
  2. Qualitative and quantitative feedback mechanisms: allow individuals to adapt in real-time, as needed. It offers timely performance coaching feedback and is a far more effective way to help employees.
  3. Objective multi-person inputs: the idea is crowdsourcing focused and timely feedback. It is done using a tool like Survey Monkey to capture specific interactions with an individual. Perhaps advice that is given, response times, communication style, teamwork, etc.
  4. Be a facilitator and champion: remove obstacles that hinder an individual’s performance. Leaders are arguably only as good as their team, so it makes good business sense to help team members shine! Become your team’s champion.

Receiving performance feedback


Whether we are first-line employees or the chief effective officer, we are each accountable to someone. To that end, there are a few simple steps we can each take to prepare for mid-year reviews:

  1. Recap goals and measures of success: What objectives were set and how are they measured? Which business targets apply, such as orders processed, sales generated, or business unit profit targets? What about qualitative measures, such as broadening your strategic thinking, or strengthening your communication style? What about new responsibilities assumed throughout the reporting period (these are easily forgotten by managers)?
  2. Do a self-assessment and identify possible gaps: If you have bank lending application targets or new client targets, where are you towards the annual target? If you are behind, why? Is the target too aggressive or do you need help? Be prepared to have this discussion, ask for the resources needed, and share the plan to get back on track. Remember it could be as simple as showing that the sales cycle follows a hockey stick effect and occur in the last quarter of the year.

On the day

It is important for our career success to receive feedback well, no matter how we might feel about what we are hearing. A few strategic steps help during the moment:

  1. A simple “thank you” – always remember feedback is a gift. When an individual offers us their feedback, especially critical or constructive feedback, they’re taking a risk with how we’ll respond. Meaning they realize the feedback could theoretically damage the relationship or prompt retaliation.
  2. Paraphrase what you heard – restating what we hear achieves a couple of things. Firstly, it confirms our understanding of the message, so we don’t risk internalizing the wrong lesson. Secondly, restating the feedback we hear allows the other person to feel heard.
  3. Commit to reflecting on the discussion – go away and think about the conversation. Once you determine how to best act on the feedback, circle back with the person who gave it to share the plan.

Final Thoughts

Constructive, and therefore positive, feedback loops are essential in an engaged and high-performing team. Giving individual feedback about performance (actions and behaviours) in a timely way without fear of reprisal gives everyone a useful opportunity to work toward better performance. Both parties have a responsibility in mid-year reviews, or year-end reviews, to create a positive and meaningful experience. A little preparation goes a long way to making it happen!

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your advice with others on how you approach performance reviews, or how you handle receiving constructive feedback well.

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Mark Anderson

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