Why are employee performance evaluations so stressful?

When you think of performance appraisals, what is your first reaction?  Management and staff shudder at the thought.  Supervisors dread writing the report, but they want to get the job done. Employees don’t like surprises in their annual evaluation, but they want to get a good review.

  • Why not satisfy employer and employee?

Performance appraisals tend to be stressful experiences for management and staff.

However, if both parties are committed to achieving goals, it is simply about establishing clear expectations while continuing to provide the coaching and mentoring necessary to help employees succeed.

employee performance evaluations
  • Why do so many managers forget their critical role in coaching employees?
  • Why do both forget to assess whether they are accomplishing smaller goals along the way?

Imagine employee performance evaluations that assess actual results with both parties being accountable for their part. Employees could grow and develop in a more positive environment and supervisors would achieve the desired results more quickly.

Setting Goals for Employee Performance Evaluations

Dr. Randy Pausch, author of the 2008 National Best Seller The Last Lecture, was my graduate school advisor. When he assigned a project, he gave students a contract where we could choose to earn the grade of our choice.

From the beginning, it was clear to us whether we would earn a “C”, “B” or an “A”.  As you might imagine, the requirements were increasingly difficult; if you wanted an “A,” you had to earn it.

With his approach, there was never any doubt about the outcome of your grade, because everyone understood the “contract” beforehand.

Randy’s approach reduced student stress because expectation were clear; everyone knew the grade they would receive before they turned in the assignment. As the instructor, it also reduced Randy’s workload because we determined our grade based on his standards, minimizing stress for everyone involved.


Employee Goal Setting

Similar to achieving a grade for a particular course project, management and staff can achieve common objectives.
Management can define minimum standards and staff will feel valued because they are meeting company goals.

Those above average and top performers who are most capable and inspired to do more will demonstrate greater initiative if they know they will be rewarded for their efforts.



Leaders who provide regular feedback and reviews will find employee performance evaluations much less stressful.

The idea is to help your team succeed. Create a positive environment. Address, but downplay the shortcomings. Catch them doing something right and expand upon the smaller victories on a daily or weekly basis.

Periodically before the annual review, conduct one or more semi-formal reviews so everyone knows what to expect or what behavior to change prior to the final review.

During the semi-formal review, both parties can discuss differences openly without the stress of the final report, while working toward common agreement on any tasks not being performed correctly.

Be open – it may not be the employee who needs to change!

Tom's Biography

​Tom Crea is a leadership expert, decorated career Army Officer, and Blackhawk Helicopter pilot.  Because of his proven skills, he was hand selected to run the Army’s leadership development program at two Boston colleges, where he and his team transformed college students into combat leaders. 

(Discover how to be a Guiding Light — 3-step process)

Today, he is a Servant Leadership ambassador: An author, keynote speaker, and leadership development coach. He is also a  radio show host.

Tom has a B.S. & M.C.S. in Computer Science and a M.A. in Political Science and loves coaching basketball and spending time with his wife and two boys.

Creating a Culture: 

Tom’s proudest leadership moment came when his unit was called to war in Iraq after he had rotated out. His replacement was not able to perform, so members he developed stepped up to lead; they attribute their success to the leadership Tom instilled in each of them. Today, the Blackhawk leadership way.