3 Reasons to Talk About Annual Performance Ratings and Pay Rises at the Start of the Performance Review

By Heather Campbell

What are the top points that your team members want to hear about when they come along to their Annual Performance Review (APR)?  They want to hear what annual performance rating you currently have in mind to give them and, if that impacts their salary, they want to know by how much.

So, it would make sense to talk about these points right up front.  Right?

Well, not if you follow the process that most APRs take.  For most, the discussion between the manager and their team member flows through some or all of the following – progress against objectives, plans for next year, development needs, the team member’s feedback to the boss and career aspirations.  And then, just when you and the team member are both talked out, just as the APR is about to end, you drop the bombshell.

Here’s why it’s far more productive to talk about these critical points right up front instead.

It stops them casting a shadow over the whole conversation

Because people want to know ‘how they’ve done’, waiting to hear about this is the primary focus in their minds.  This casts a shadow over the whole conversation because, no matter what you are discussing, at least part of their attention is on these critical points.

It also prevents a shadow from the manager’s perspective.  Managers often talk to me about their fears around telling someone they haven’t got the performance rating or pay rise that they were expecting.  This fear hangs around for the whole conversation if you leave this message to the end.

It avoids disappointment

Getting these points on the table right from the start avoids the disappointment that people feel when, after a conversation about how well they have performed all year, they get the message from their manager ‘So, I’m going to give you an annual performance rating of satisfactory’ (or whatever the equivalent is in your organisation).

I wonder how many managers have found themselves trying to explain to someone why ‘satisfactory’ doesn’t really mean ‘satisfactory’, it really means ‘good because we have very high standards in our company.’

Explaining up front what rating you have in mind sets expectations right from the start.

It gives you time to resolve differences in opinion

Being up front about these critical points means that, if there’s any conflict about the performance rating, you have the whole of the performance review to discuss this.  If you leave it right until the end, there’s no time to resolve any differences in opinion.

Many managers find that they have to arrange a second meeting to sort out these differences.  That’s an avoidable waste of time if you simply get this important issue out right from the start.

And remember that, if there are differences in opinion, talking about these from the start allows the manager to get the information that may lead them to change their minds.  Perhaps the individual can clearly demonstrate why a different rating or pay rise would be reasonable.

Understanding where the manager’s mindset is right from the start allows them to present a more coherent case.


In Annual Performance Reviews, it’s common practice to leave discussion about the annual performance rating the manager intends to give and any impact this has on salary until the end of the conversation.

However, this is counter-productive.  It is far better to get these points on the table right from the start because these are the primary areas of focus for the team member whose APR this is.

Getting to the point early on:

  • Stops a shadow being cast over the whole conversation
  • Avoids disappointment
  • Gives time to resolve differences in opinion
Leave a Reply

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

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}