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How to Conduct Motivating Performance Reviews When Business Is Down

What can you do to inspire your team in the absence of typical incentives like raises and promotions?

December 20, 2023

Jonathan Kitchen/Getty Images


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  • As the manager, your job is to rally your team members and inspire them for the year ahead. But what if your business isn’t doing well? How can you objectively assess individual performance? And how can you balance realistic expectations for the future while also fostering a sense of leaderly optimism? In this article, the author outlines strategies for how to conduct a motivating performance review when business is down. Preparation is paramount regardless of the state of the economy, but in tougher times, providing accurate and insightful feedback becomes all the more crucial. 

    Performance reviews are typically not the highlight of anyone’s to-do list. Throw in a flaky, shaky economy and a couple of rough quarters, and they’re even less appealing. You want your employees to come away motivated and enthusiastic about their work. But when business is slow, they also need a clear understanding of how they contribute to the company’s bottom line.

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    • RK


      Rebecca Knight is a journalist who writes about all things related to the changing nature of careers and the workplace. Her essays and reported stories have been featured in The Boston Globe, Business Insider, The New York Times, BBC, and The Christian Science Monitor. She was shortlisted as a Reuters Institute Fellow at Oxford University in 2023. Earlier in her career, she  spent a decade as an editor and reporter at the Financial Times in New York, London, and Boston.


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  • New!


    HBR Learning

    Leading People Course

    Accelerate your career with Harvard ManageMentor®. HBR Learning’s online leadership training helps you hone your skills with courses like Leading People. Earn badges to share on LinkedIn and your resume. Access more than 40 courses trusted by Fortune 500 companies.

    What you need to know about being in charge.

    Read More

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