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The Time I Gave My Spouse a Performance Review

Receiving feedback is hard. Don't try to convince yourself that receiving feedback is "not personal" or "just business."

I’ve been in HR a lot longer than I’ve been a wife or mom.

I'm not going to lie: I organize my family a bit like a business!

All three kids have color-coded google calendars so everyone can see events, deadlines, and priorities.

We have junior-sized standard operating procedures (SOPs) for getting ready in the morning. Our four-year-old is always proud to show off his daily "to-do" list, a board with pictures of things like teeth (brush your teeth), cereal (eat breakfast) and socks (yes, you need to wear them).

My son went on a performance improvement plan (pip) for poor behavior choices when he was five. I printed the form right from my HR toolbox. We both signed it and worked together towards improvement and cooperation.

So, why not an annual performance review for my spouse?

Instead of having day-to-day discussions about all the trivial things, why not just boil it down to one discussion at the end of the year?

We’re both busy, so I figured this could simplify things, save time and avoid awkward discussions for a full year.

And hey, maybe we could even get a babysitter and have a fun dinner out?

Instead of nagging or addressing, I just wrote down my observations for discussion at that golden opportune moment:

  • Clothes were thrown just inches away from the hamper. Wrote it down.

  • Dinner menu could use a few more vegetables. Wrote it down.

  • Left a kid at a playground and had to go back and get him once he realized he hadn’t made it home, No worries. Wrote it down.

But it wasn’t just the bad things, I documented the good things too.

  • Amazingly patient helping the kids with homework. Wrote it down.

  • Got that promotion to better support our family. Wrote it down.

  • Laughs at my jokes. Wrote it down.

By year-end, I had compiled a very inclusive list, and was ready to celebrate our successes!

So I put an action plan in place to make our marriage even better in the year to come.

Certainly, he would appreciate the time and energy that I had devoted to the health of our family. It wasn’t personal, it was just the feedback he needed to hear to be a better husband and father.

How do you think that discussion went?

< Insert screaming man face >

Okay, okay. Don't worry, this is totally fictional!

I would never do this to Keith. If you have a marriage that could withstand this without battle scars, congratulations!

Is this how many of us are treating performance discussions in our organizations?

While the power dynamics in an organization are obviously different, it’s still a relationship — and hopefully a long-term one.

So if you are appalled at the idea of getting this kind of feedback from someone you love, think of how managers feel trying to give essential feedback without being the “bad guy."

So, what do we do to preserve our relationships while also offering, documenting and even rating performance?

Here are some tips:

Looking for help with performance reviews or other HR support? Send me a message at

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