Performance Review Pitfalls To Avoid

Patricea Pop

8 minutes read

As 2022 draws to a close, employees in most organizations are getting ready for the year-end assessment. For most managers and their teams alike, the conversation on performance is never a walk in the park. In fact, many find it quite uncomfortable and triggering. Last but not least, it might be difficult to accept results when an employee feels like their direct management is not appreciating their effort and commitment after a year of hard work.

Here are a few elements that can help make the appraisal process less difficult for you:

First, always prepare for the conversation.

Second, take time to reflect upon your own biases, expectations, and assumptions.

Third, stay curious about the other person and ask relevant questions.

Given that all evaluations are subject to some degree of subjectivity and that people are prone to thinking errors, let’s look at the most typical mistakes during a performance review:


The psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman found that most people base their decisions not on logic or facts but on prejudice, preconceptions, and intuition. Bias or partiality during the evaluation process indicates a lack of neutrality, which could damage the employee and their standing within the organization.

Similar-to-me Error

The similar-to-me error occurs during the evaluation process when managers favor employees who are like them. We may all relate to people who are like us, but we shouldn’t let this affect how we evaluate someone’s performance.


Stereotypes are views that individuals of a given group of people generally have certain traits, behaviors, and qualities. When evaluating an employee’s performance, stereotypes become problematic because the assessment will be based on the manager’s preconceived notions of the group to which the employee belongs.

Halo-effect Bias

A single employee’s strength can influence their total rating according to the halo effect.

You cannot let an employee’s effectiveness in one particular area influence how you perceive them in their other tasks. They may not be proficient in every one of their duties, thus they must be evaluated in their entirety. This situation often occurs when a manager has a ‌good relationship with their employee and when they want to avoid getting too harsh during the evaluation process.

Overlooking the Timeline

When the manager’s focus shifts to the employee’s most recent actions, this is called a recency error.

It’s possible that the worker did well all year. Unfortunately, it’s possible that the same worker failed shortly before the appraisal. If the feedback is just based on the recent past and not on all the other work completed during the year, the manager will commit a noteworthy recency error

Distribution errors

Three different distribution models exist:

Severity: the appraiser gives all, or almost all, of the staff below-average grades.

Central: the appraiser examines each individual at this point with usually average grades. This may occur when management avoids giving poor grades to avoid dealing with behavioral concerns or when they are uncomfortable with conflict.

Leniency: the manager over-emphasis positive behaviors and evaluates everyone with above-average ratings

Proximity errors

The proximity error occurs when elements on the performance review sheet that are close to one another are rated similarly, regardless of the actual score.

Compare/contrast error

It is typical for managers to evaluate the work of numerous employees and, when doing so, the superior compares each employee’s performance to that of the other team members rather than to the corporate norm.

Spill-over Effect or Past-record Anchoring

Managers will continue to give employees unrealistically high ratings regardless of their present performance if the results of their prior performance evaluations were favorable. When the present performance is heavily based on past performance, a spill-over effect occurs.

Other errors

The value system of the manager as well as the likability, appearance, and fame of the employee within the company are other powerful aspects worth taking into consideration during the appraisal process.

As much as we would like the employee evaluations to be objective, we are all guilty of allowing our thinking errors to guide us during the appraisal process. The first step in tackling this challenge is to become familiar with the key categories, identify our “favorite” biases and errors, and build a strategy to combat them.

Therefore, we can conclude that assessing ourselves and our thinking flaws is the most crucial component that is absent from the performance evaluation process.

Subscribe to our newsletter

By subscribing to the newsletter you agree with the privacy policy.

Written by Patricea Pop


It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a simple step and mine started a few summers ago when I wanted to do something for myself, so I enrolled in a coaching programme. This gave me the chance to look at myself from a different perspective: little did I know that it would take me to a different career path, that of being a coach.

After more than 12 years in the corporate world which taught me many lessons and several years of preparation for my new role, I now support people in business to improve their self leadership skills. I think leadership is an inside job and it is part soul searching, part strategy and part relationship skills.

I love writing about work and organizations because it is the place where we invest heavily our time and energy and we often end up feeling stressed, trapped and dissatisfied. My strength relies on my resilience, critical thinking and intuition and I believe it is an honour to accompany someone on their inner journey.

Be the first one to comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *