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Mastering Performance Reviews

Strategic Performance Reviews: Navigating Biases and Crafting Career Success

Whether you've recently joined a company, have your eyes set on a promotion, or are dealing with challenges in your current role, this blog is tailored just for you. With performance reviews on the horizon, understanding how to navigate them is crucial for your career growth and job satisfaction. As we step into 2024, it's time to address the elephant in the room – the controversial world of performance reviews and internal recommendations for promotions where rating on performance appraisal factors in to move up in career. We'll explore the often-overlooked biases embedded in these systems and why it might be high time to reconsider their relevance by knowing how to navigate around unfair ratings and document as an employee. My wishlist is to STOP performance reviews with ratings and introduce more 1:1 and 360 feedback to have ongoing conversations. Many unionized and public sectors do not have performance review ratings and this approach may be beneficial if done the right way.

The Unpopular Truth:

Let's start with an unpopular opinion – the current processes of performance reviews and internal recommendations have inherent biases that can no longer be ignored. Holding employees hostage by requiring their current manager's approval for recommendations creates a sticky situation, especially for those who love the company but struggle with colleagues, managers, the environment, or their current roles. Some companies also want employees to add performance reviews during the internal application process which demotivates people who are trying to pivot or change the environment. Is it a fair process to promote people based on the previous manager's rating/recommendation?

Unveiling Unethical Practices:

A shocking revelation comes from the practice of tying sick days/attendance/leave of absence taken to internal forms and performance review ratings for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This unethical approach puts employees in a tough spot and raises questions about HR practices. Women often bear the brunt of this system, facing contrast bias, recency bias and perception ratings during the mat leave. Many employers remove performance appraisal during the mat leave and do not factor in salary raises which creates the pay gap internally. Managers need to have prorated performance review options or match the cost of living at least to prevent biases.

New Immigrants whose English is not a first language might have been overlooked in getting high ratings on communication skills which includes verbal and written is essentially a perception and contract bias of comparison between direct reports and local talents. Organizations need to establish how soft skills and communication skills are rated on the roles. Employees with a speech disability, neurodiverse, or invisible disabilities need to be factored into the rating system. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is not only about race anymore. If employers can't measure soft skills that creates biases. When adding unmeasurable skills to the rating system, appraisal becomes instinct or gut feelings which is unfair.

During the performance review, are employers adding all the quiet promotion/quiet hiring where employees were assigned new tasks/projects/backup/ cross training for exposure which was not a part of the job description?

Employees need to add extra tasks creating a paper trail which in return creates a case for a salary increase or new headcounts. Why quiet hiring could be labour abuse my interview with Global National and CNBC.

Sometimes managers use performance review coaching notes and ratings to document the next step which could be a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) and termination. Putting an employee on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) without having several discussions in advance and support is purely done to manage employees out with the cause. PIP will impact the severance and employment insurance. Here is how to document an employee for potential wrongful dismissal.

Navigating the Bias in Performance Ratings:

If you find yourself feeling the pressure of upcoming performance reviews, you're not alone. Amid this process, it's essential to acknowledge the unconscious biases that often permeate these evaluations. As an employee track your tasks and accomplishments with supporting evidence to write on the reviews and validate ratings. Managers, too, grapple with biases during performance reviews, notably the pervasive contrast bias. This bias involves managers comparing direct reports based on perceptions rather than standardized performance criteria. It's a common pitfall that can lead to unfair ratings. A quarter (25 per cent) of workers believe that their performance reviews were negatively affected by their supervisor's personal biases, reports workplace equity analytics platform Report, This is 54 per cent more likely to be the case among Asian employees than among white employees.

To counteract this issue, the establishment of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is crucial for providing a clear framework for evaluations. KPIs serve as a measure against which employees can be objectively assessed, ensuring a fair and equitable review process.

Consider the following example:

Time Use: Unpaid, Unseen Work

Employees who actively engage in office chores/housework, organize events, decorate for the holiday season, celebrate birthdays, order supplies, mentor juniors, and volunteer for company campaigns during their time often go unnoticed during performance reviews. As a leader, it's essential to evaluate bias and recognize these contributions as part of the overall rating process. Women are expected to sign up for office chores without being compensated in the name of upskilling. People need to be compensated for going above and beyond if you expect them to go above and beyond.

Proximately bias:

Proximity bias is favouring employees who often show up at work for face time versus a remote employee who is working in a hybrid environment and barely shows up at work. The issue with proximity bias is that it puts remote workers at a huge disadvantage which acts as a hurdle to gain new projects/promotions/bonuses. AstraZeneca Sued by Staffer whose Bonus was cut for working at home is an example. Managers affected by proximity bias might view remote workers as less committed and less productive than their in-office counterparts who regularly show up for meetings/team outings. The solution here is to look at productivity and measure with fair KPIs.

Leaders and Employees alike: A Call to Action

As a leader, reflect on how you incorporate additional responsibilities into performance ratings. Are you acknowledging the valuable contributions beyond the job description?

As an employee, consider showcasing your involvement in office chores, volunteering hours, and team events during your performance reviews. Your dedication to these activities deserves recognition.

Performance reviews should never come as a shock, and the ratings should reflect a fair and transparent evaluation process. Remember, in the unfortunate event of termination, your performance review and notes become critical. Watch my video on why and how to document for guidance in these situations.

The Impact on Pay and Career Progression:

Taking maternity leaves/leave of absence and readjusting upon return can negatively impact ratings, leading to salary discrepancies and creating a gender pay gap. This triggers destructive consequences of performance appraisal on employee confidence, emphasizing the need for change in the system.

Suggested Solutions:

In addressing these issues are two potential solutions:

  1. Introduce continuous feedback mechanisms like weekly/monthly/quarterly 1:1s and 360 feedback with stakeholders to support staff without relying on a rigid rating system.

  2. Adopt a more transparent approach by matching inflation and providing everyone with the standard rate of increase plus bonuses based on the company's bonus structure.

  3. Review KPIs metrics to identify inconsistencies and bias.

  4. Include a calibration with managers and second-level manager review.

A Cautionary Note: Are you getting fired soon?

There are red flags in performance reviews, where some bosses may misuse the system to quietly terminate employees. As we step into 2024, it's time to reimagine performance evaluations for a fairer, more equitable workplace.

No Surprises, Only Expectations:

One key takeaway is that performance reviews should never be a surprise. Appraisal is not about 1:1 coaching/ running a laundry list of what wasn't met. Performance review is about how to move ahead and get better for the next year with leadership support. Ongoing conversations with your manager should provide a clear understanding of your standing and expected rating. Many companies use matrices aligning individual goals with broader organizational objectives to ensure everyone works towards the same success, from front-line employees to top executives.

Managing Up: Clear Expectations for Success:

Understanding how to manage up is essential. As an employee request 1:1 coaching regularly to stay on top to avoid shocking areas of opportunities. Ask your boss what should you STOP, CONTINUE and START to focus on deliverables. Who you aspire to be is not your boss's responsibility and the boss can't read your mind. Communicate your career aspiration and ask your boss for support to clear hurdles/red tape. Work through personal development and make the case to upgrade the skills by taking courses, and certifications which will help the team. It involves aligning your goals with those of your superiors and the company's vision. The trickling effect from executives to senior leadership to management to employees ensures everyone contributes to overarching goals. Your success directly impacts your boss's promotions, salary, and bonuses, highlighting the interconnectedness of the entire organizational structure.

Guidance for Different Situations:

Whether you're a new hire, recently promoted, or facing dissatisfaction at work, the blog covers strategies to navigate performance reviews effectively:

  1. For New Hires: Learn what you should focus on to make a positive impact from the start. Create a 30-60-90-day plan.

  2. For Recent Promotions: Understand what aspects you should be mindful of to sustain your upward trajectory.

  3. For Those Facing Challenges: Discover how to document your concerns, address friction with superiors, and improve your work environment.


Successfully managing performance reviews is about proactively aligning your goals with organizational objectives. By understanding the dynamics of these reviews and their impact on your career, you can navigate them with confidence and set yourself up for future success.

In the dynamic corporate landscape, performance reviews are a crucial aspect of professional growth and development. Whether you're anticipating a promotion, facing challenges at work, or concerned about potential layoffs, understanding the intricacies of performance reviews is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore strategies for success and red flags to watch out for.

Navigating Layoffs and Bonus Entitlements:

In recent years, Canadian law has been implemented to protect employees during layoffs. However, it's crucial to scrutinize your job offer to determine if you're entitled to yearly or quarterly bonuses and if salary increases are effective from the following year. Unfortunately, if you find yourself laid off before these payouts, consult a legal professional to ensure fair treatment. Many individuals have experienced layoffs right after performance reviews due to bonus non-payment clauses in their job offers. Is your boss quiet cutting and quiet firing you? here is an interview with CNBC.

Preparing for the Possibility of Layoffs:

Given the current performance review season, it's imperative to stay vigilant. Executives and leadership changes may indicate organizational shifts that could lead to layoffs. Pay attention to water cooler conversations, observe the behavior of key figures, and be proactive in preparing your resume and LinkedIn profile. Consulting external contacts ensures you're ready for any potential transitions. Here are tips on how to bounce back after a layoff.

Sweta Regmi is a globally recognized top career expert, speaker, and certified career and resume strategist with over a decade of experience empowering job seekers and career professionals. Top media outlets have widely recognized Regmi's expertise, her insights are featured in CBC National News, CNBC, CTV News, City News, Global News- National Top Story, FOX 26 News, Daily Mail, BNN Bloomberg, Rogers Media, Globe and Mail, Yahoo News, National Post, Financial Post, MSN, MoneyWise,, Post Media Network, FORBES, Toronto Sun, Vancouver Sun, LinkedIn News, LinkedIn Hello Monday award-winning podcast, LinkedIn Creators, Indeed, Employment services, Top colleges and Universities, Career conferences, Women in Leadership Conference, and more!


Regmi has delivered over 100 career webinars, and training sessions, and hosted/moderated live events to audiences ranging from 20 to 800+ online attendees at top colleges, reputed brands, and conferences. Her impactful and engaging speaking style has earned her rave reviews and testimonials from event organizers and participants alike.

Regmi has also partnered with leading brands and organizations to elevate and spearhead career strategies, and career sites, establish non-profit employment services partnerships, and create educational career content with 30M+ views on social media with over 220000+ followers across the social media platforms. Her RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards nomination further demonstrates her success as a top career expert.

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