Appraisal Angst

Appraisal Angst

The clicking clock, the closed office door, and the impeding discussion of the year’s worth of work – it’s the time for the annual performance review, and the anxiety is palpable. Appraisal angst isn’t just a catchy term; it’s a real emotion many employees feel. Whether it’s the fear of unexpected criticism, worry about job stability , or simply the pressure of being under the microscope, these reviews can be nerve-wracking. For employees, it’s essential for organisations to understand their concerns. Performance appraisals are more than just routine assessments; they’re pivotal moments in an employee’s career journey and the organisations growth. When appraisals are approached correctly, they can inspire, motivate, and promote loyalty.


Many employees view appraisals negatively and think that their only purpose is to have their weaknesses and shortcomings put in the spotlight. As a results, this regularly results in staff being reluctant to engage in the process.

Employers should remind staff that appraisals are an entirely different process to that of a performance management (capability process) – appraisals are to help employees with their ongoing development and offer support.


To get the most out fo the appraisal system, employees have to be fully engaged and onboard with the process. During the appraisal, it is important to discuss the successes as well as the challenges the employee has faced to avoid negativity. Avoid focusing entirely on shortcomings and what can be done to address these- also reflect on the individual’s strengths and successes, and how those strengths can be utilised in other areas of their work.
Ask the employee what they insider challenging or struggle with and talk about ways in how improvements can be made to better manage such challenges, which could include additional support and/or training. Also discuss the plans that the individual has for their career, whether they have any particular ambitions or new skills they want to pursue and consider whether support can be put in place to assist with their progression. 

Focus forward

Many view objectives as the ultimate goal, rather than acknowledge that it is an ongoing improvement in their developmental journey. This approach can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed or trying to do too much all at once, and in turn, lead to failure. It is important to ensure that the process is supported with regular reviews, whether they be formal or informal and focus on their steps towards their overall objectives. Consideration should also be given to implementing mid-term appraisals where progress toward the end goal can be discussed, which would allow parties to identify any areas for further development. 

Set objectives

It is recommended that the employee suggests their own objective ahead of their appraisal, and these are discussed during the meeting. Objectives need to be manageable and transparent to succeed. Ideally, objectives should be agreed with the employee, including how progress will be measured and reviewed. It is also recommended that procedures are put in place for an employee to appeal against any of the proposed objectives if there is particular disagreement. Finally, be mindful of the number of objectives set as this could result in an employee feeling overwhelmed and disillusioned. 

Summarise and support

At the end of the appraisal, a summary should be given of what has been discussed, what objectives have been set, the actions moving forward and who is responsible for them, and review dates. It is also a good idea to follow this up in writing to not only act as an aide-memoire for the employee but to effectively record the individuals ongoing development.

Regular reviews and/or catch-ups are also highly recommended to develop regular feedback. The employee should also be reminded of your support and encouraged to reach out if they have any concerns, no matter how small.

This works towards developing an environment in which employees feel supported and encouraged in their development, and readily able to reach out if they need help.

Document everything

Ensure every aspect of the appraisal, from performance metrics to future goals, is documented. This provides a roadmap for the employee and accountability for both parties.

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