How to Survive a Performance Management Review

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 04:18 PM

Gareth Murphy, FSU - How to Survive a Performance Review
Gareth Murphy, FSU
How to Survive a Performance Review

Workers should be mindful that midterm reviews can be used to undermine their performance but help is at hand, says the FSU’s Gareth Murphy


I have been dealing with people undergoing performance management reviews for more than a decade.

It is hugely frustrating for workers when they find objectives are arbitrarily imposed and goalposts are moved. The tendency of some employers to mark people down, regardless of their work, is also a source of enormous frustration.

In my experience, elaborate bureaucratic structures can be used to force people into a rating structure that bears little resemblance to the team or group dynamic.

In a recent survey of a large bank in Ireland, both staff and managers were highly critical of their system. As one manager put it:

“The line managers who undertake performance management meetings with staff are just puppets. They cannot actually determine staff grading, as gradings are cascaded down from the top/head of the Unit.”

Typically, a workplace performance management system has the following elements.

  • A start of year conversation
  • A mid-year conversation
  • An the end of year conversation

If you are due or undergoing a reviews, here are some top tips to ensure you receive a fair rating and recognition for your contribution.


Know the process

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the main stages of the process. Ask yourself:

  • Do I know how progress will be measured?
  • If there is a mid-year review, how is that conducted?
  • Is performance ‘rated’ or ‘scored’ and if so what is that result used for?
  • If new challenges or requirements emerge in work during the year how does the performance management system adapt?


Mid-year review

This is an important part of the process – both to benchmark your own progress and to check that your employer is delivering on their commitments in areas such as resources, staffing and training.

This shouldn’t be a one-way ‘box ticking’ exercise. As with all elements of performance management it is important it is a two-way discussion.

Your employer is under an obligation to carry out the mid-year review in a professional manner. This means that it should take place in a private location. You should also be informed of the meeting well in advance to allow you to prepare (this is where having a note of your progress during the year becomes really helpful!).

Also if for some reason your employer is giving you a poor performance assessment at this stage of the year, then that should be clearly communicated to you.

It is also important that the employer commits to an agreed plan to give you the opportunity to lift this rating during the rest of the year. If you are in a union, you should talk to your rep if you find yourself in this position.

As with all stages of the performance management process the outcome of a mid-year appraisal needs to be clear and recorded – ensure you keep your own record.


Looking ahead – end of year rating

Ratings are a crucial part of the performance management system – they have a direct impact on your salary and promotion prospects.  They are important for your own sense of value at work. 

In many employments the rating system is deeply flawed.  It often herds staff into pre-determined groups, rather than providing individual staff and teams with a fair assessment of their contribution over the year.

You should not feel intimidated into accepting a rating that you feel is unfair or doesn’t take into account all the factors relevant to your performance.   In my experience a good rule of thumb is that your rating should never be a surprise to you.

If you are unhappy with the rating you receive, then request (in writing) a copy of the grievance procedure for ratings within your employment.

Quite often the issues outstanding can be resolved informally at this stage. 

However, remember in the majority of employments you are entitled to pursue a formal grievance process so don’t feel you have to sign off on any proposal by management.

Generally speaking your formal appeal should be lodged within 10 to 14 days of the end of year meeting.

If you are in a union, and have concerns about the process, make sure to talk to your representative about it at the earlier possible stage. And if you’re not in a union, you should consider joining today.

Protecting your interests at work is vital, and you may need the support of a union to ensure you are properly represented if difficulties arise.

 Gareth Murphy is Senior Industrial Officer with the Financial Services Union.  He is an occasional lecturer in Queens University, Belfast. The Financial Services Union (FSU) has produced a guide to performance management, available at



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