7 common causes of conflict during performance reviews


Conducting regular performance reviews is an essential part of effective business management. Through formal reviews, your employees can develop their skills and career potential and help your business meet its goals more effectively.

Performance reviews can seem fairly straightforward if everything is going well, but what happens when you need to discuss an issue that might not be well received?

Conflict can often arise out of performance management disagreements and can lead to further disputes. If you have a difficult issue to bring up with an employee, it might help if you are aware of the seven main triggers for conflict during performance reviews.

1. Personal criticism

When you are providing feedback, make it about the job and the outcomes associated with the role, not about an employee personally.

2. Feeling ignored

Failing to respond to requests or acknowledging employees for their efforts can lead to resentment. Make sure you take time to focus on the positive, and recognise employees’ hard work and achievements as much as you focus on any negative aspects of their performance.

3. Being perceived as a failure

It is important to provide constructive feedback and positive encouragement to employees to help them improve, rather than just focusing on their shortcomings.

4. Being placed in an embarrassing situation

Be sensitive if you are dealing with delicate issues that might cause embarrassment, and always make sure employees are aware that you respect their confidentiality and won’t discuss their review, or any other issues, with their peers.

5. Catching people off guard

An unexpected piece of negative criticism can trigger an instantaneous gut reaction that your employee may later regret. Always give employees plenty of time to prepare for a review, and try to introduce negative feedback gently and in a non-confrontational manner where possible.

6. Having their duties restricted to mundane tasks

Although mundane or repetitive duties are part of many roles, if all your employee is undertaking are duties that are below their perceived level of skill, they can become demotivated and resentful. Allowing employees access to more challenging and interesting duties can help them develop their skills, as well as keep them involved and engaged with the organisation.

7. Being unjustly treated

Make sure your feedback is fair, and is delivered in a respectful manner.

Although it can be difficult to give negative feedback, learning to do so effectively, and without causing unnecessary conflict, is one of the most important parts of effective performance management.

Continual underperformance or mistakes can affect other employees as well as the business as a whole, so it is important to deal with any issues as soon as possible after they arise. While you can’t always judge how someone will react, you can help reduce the risk of a workplace confrontation or disagreement by taking as many steps as possible to avoid the obvious triggers.