Mid-Year Review: Love it or Leave it?

For many companies, the mid-year review is seen as the less intense, less formal, and therefore, less important performance review.

Mid-year reviews are a lot like progress reports in school. They’re easy to gloss over because the important review, the year-end review (or the report card), is what really matters. On top of that, everyone hates doing it.

  • HR leaders hate having to be policy enforcers.
  • Supervisors despise having to fill out all the forms and conduct performance sessions.
  • Employees dread it because their work is put under the microscope.

So, tell me again why we’re still doing mid-year reviews? Look, I get it. Most of the time, these types of things are mandatory. But since we have to do them, why treat them like checklists to rush through instead of growth opportunities?

There are some documented brain-science reasons for the mid-year review blues, and once you know them, it’s easy to re-think performance reviews and make them a more enjoyable task for everyone.

Why Your Brain Hates the Mid-Year Performance Review

One of the biggest reasons mid-year reviews are a pain to get through is because most people don’t value them. Our brains are designed to ignore things that don’t matter to us to make our lives as simple as possible.

So, if the mid-year review is glossed over by leadership, then everyone’s brains are designed to ignore it and shift the priority to something we perceive as important. Our brains do this to conserve energy and avoid potential conflict (more on conflict in a second).

Plus, our brains like to view these types of obligations like quick tasks to check off a checklist instead of taking the time to do them right because it makes us feel like we’re accomplishing something. Accomplishing a task releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical that our brains crave.

Make the mid-year review more than just something you check off your to-do list.

“Check listing” a performance review (aka rushing through it to check it off the to-do list) offers up instant feel-good energy, but it isn’t actually helping anyone. It’s just about quick dopamine hits, survival, and avoiding conflict.

Now, about conflict… our brains loathe it, and that adds to the negative vibes surrounding mid-year reviews. Typically, performance reviews center around what the employee is doing wrong or what needs improvement. Whether you’re an employee on the receiving end or a leader dropping the hammer, our brains perceive the feedback scenario as a conflict.

And our brains believe conflict should be avoided at all costs. It’s just part of our survival mechanisms. Our brain interprets conflict, and it avoids it or simplifies it (checklist mentality). As an employee, it’s also a direct attack on how successful we feel — and as we know, our brains crave success and accomplishment.

So, how can you overcome these brain-based hurdles and make the mid-year review process a more productive one?

3 Tips to Make the Mid-Year Review More Enjoyable

Here’s how to reign in your brain’s natural responses and get the most out of the mid-year review — whether you’re a leader or an employee.

Tip 1: Shift Your Mindset.

Here’s the truth: If you think it’s going to be worthless, it’s going to be worthless. If you have to do it anyway, why not choose to make it count? You have the power to decide whether or not to rush through the mid-year review to quickly check it off the list or use it as an opportunity to improve and fix any issues before the year-end review.

Tip 2: Leaders, Ask More Questions.

Performance reviews don’t have to be negative. Instead, aim to ask more questions and engage your employees in a dialogue. Don’t lead with a laundry list of feedback and criticism; turn it into a more enjoyable conversation, and be sure to praise what they’re doing well, too.

Some examples:

  • You’re great at getting others to contribute to the conversation, so what if we could….
  • How do you feel your efforts are reflected in this review?
  • What are the key items you think we should focus on right now?
  • What would you like to be true by the end of the year, and what do you think that will take?
  • How can I support you?
Eliminating the negative spin on mid-reviews can yield more beneficial results.

Tip 3: Address Misaligned Expectations with Direct Feedback.

A lot of the negative reactions from our brain come from an assumption that there’s going to be conflict. That’s a fair concern because performance reviews tend to be negatively slanted. But feedback doesn’t have to be painful.

Instead, when you have to give feedback on performance, be direct and use concrete data. Plainly state what was expected, what the results were, and what’s needed now and by when. Don’t be subjective or unclear about performance.

This can look like, “Our expectations for you were seven sales a month, but your average over the last six months has been four sales. We’d like to see you increase your sales per month to six by the year-end review. What do you think you need in order to hit that target?”

Beat the Mid-Year Review Blues

Are your mid-year reviews going to magically transform into amazing funfests for everyone? Probably not! Still, with a bit of redirection and mindset shift, they can be a lot less painful and a lot more beneficial for your company.

Mid-year reviews are an excellent opportunity to course-correct and help ensure your year-end reviews are all about positive results. Take the time to make them worthwhile, and the outcomes will speak for themselves.

If you’d like more information on how to boost your leadership skills and produce real results in your organization using brain science, check out our Leadership Labs.

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