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Is it common and generally accepted for an HR executive to sit in during a performance review? I don't agree to have the HR sit in because the presence of a third party may have impact on what can or cannot be discussed as openly as I wish.

What is the role of HR joining the meeting at all? How does it facilitate the performance review at all?

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    HR is probably here to make sure that the content of the performance review does not stray into inappropriate territory. HR is responsible for making sure that company personnel acts in compliance with company policies and the applicable labor laws. You are not comfortable? That's irrelevant. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 23 '14 at 3:14
  • It could be about getting more objective, and documented results from the review, for reasons unrelated to the review. – Volker Siegel Apr 23 '14 at 9:19
  • As is, this question is just asking for a list of reasons why this may happen. Isn't the real question how to get HR out of your evaluation meeting? – user8365 Apr 23 '14 at 13:13
  • @JeffO: Just went over the text of the OP's post. I don't see the "real question", as identified by you, anywhere in the OP's post. Asking that "real question" is as futile and nonsensical as asking "how to get my boss of my evaluation meeting", especially if HR is monitoring the boss to make sure that his or her performance evaluation process is in compliance. If HR is just sitting in through the back and forth, it's obvious that they are observing somebody. And that somebody may not be who the OP think it is. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 23 '14 at 19:22
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    @JoeStrazzere Actually this question came about as me being the reviewer. I was concerned that I will not get honest response with a third party present. For example, if certain people are on good terms with the HR, then it may be less likely that they are willing to voice out conflicts in the team. Of course, when it's my turn to be reviewed, the same can be said. – user5473 Apr 25 '14 at 6:24
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It's not usual practice, but it is certainly not unheard of. You can try asking why, but they may not tell you. It may or may not be anything to do with you.

Possible reasons include the company wanting a third party who can confirm what was said at the review if it later becomes important (lawsuits being one of several possible reasons); your boss may be having his performance review techniques checked up on, or HR may be conducting a survey of how performance reviews are done in the company. It may be that your boss is going to deliver some kind of formal warning to you, but these are normally delivered without HR in my experience, and if you are about to get a formal warning then you should already be aware that something is wrong. In any case objecting to the presence of HR isn't going to help.

The presence of HR isn't going to affect the review. HR has full access to your employment records if they need it, so there isn't anything that can't be discussed in front of them. The only exception would be if you intended to bring up some extremely personal matter. Your best bet is to just ignore the other person in the review completely, unless they want to interact with you.

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    The reason provided was that the HR was there to act as witness as to any agreement between the 2 parties e.g. performance incentive etc. to ensure these are written down and avoid future conflict. – user5473 Jun 6 '14 at 7:28
  • Sounds like there were disputes in the past where an employee claimed a manager had agreed to something and the manager said he hadn't. Unless that was something that happened to you, it probably is a new company policy. In any case, you shouldn't worry about it. – DJClayworth Nov 3 '14 at 15:55
  • +1 for "unless they want to interact with you", it's so easy to pretend someone doesn't exist! – bharal Apr 25 '18 at 23:20
  • Strictly speaking a performance review aka your 121 should not turn into a discipline meeting with zero notice - though this depends on which country – Neuromancer Apr 26 '18 at 16:56
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In my experience, it is usually a sign that something is happening elsewhere, probably legal, that has the company exposed to liability, and they want to make sure there is an observer in the reviews.

I (obviously) can't say why the HR person is there, but that is a common occurrence after a lawsuit has been filed to avoid a he said / she said predicament.

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HR may be present for all, or none of the above mentioned reasons, but their presence should not have any impact on discussions between an employee and their manager in a review situation.

Your comment that "the presence of a third party may have impact on what can or cannot be discussed as openly as I wish." may in fact be an indication of why HR is in the review.

Managers have power over the lives of their employees in many ways, and abuse of that power needs to be checked, if abused. Your concern that a 3rd party witness might cause you to alter your assessment is a red flag. Nothing said in any review should be unprofessional, or unrelated to job performance. And nothing said in those regards should need censorship, because a professional HR representative is present. If you are reluctant to speak your mind in front of witnesses, perhaps you should reconsider what you were about to say, period.

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    +1 for this: "if you are reluctant to speak your mind in front of witnesses, perhaps you should reconsider what you were about to say, period." A performance review is a touch point between you and your manager to discuss your current status, progress, and goals. There can be workplace appropriate feedback to the manager about them or coworkers. Again, workplace appropriate. – R Star Jul 4 '16 at 16:11
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I don't think it is common, but I would expect the HR person to explain why she is there. It could be company policy (Still nice to know why.). You should have asked.

More HR people (assuming they have the expertise) need to take an active role in in training and evaluating the reviewers. Not everyone is good at it. Google crunched the numbers and found the best way to predict a good hire was by looking at who hired them and who suggested not hiring them.

Since you did not ask, this may be a sign that you are not comfortable with the way your company operates. Is there a reason to be suspicious? If not, go ask HR and give them some feedback that you didn't feel you could be open in the meeting. Maybe you need another meeting with your boss without HR present. You shouldn't wait for the formal review to work things out with your boss either good or bad.

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It makes a difference if HR is being asked to sit in on all reviews or only those from a specific reviewer for for specific individuals.

If they are sitting in on all reviews, there may well be a complaint about the review process itself and they are investigating it. Or they may feel that the managers are in need of advice about what they cannot say or they want to get a feel for how the company is doing things if the HR person doing this is new. There may be something confidential going on in the company and want to make sure it doesn't accidentally leak during the discussions. For instance, suppose you are int eh process of being bought by a larger company, but that is not announced yet. HR may want to make sure no manager tells someone unhappy with the amount of their raise to stay because their stock options will soon be worth much more. This would be a legal issue and could kill the whole deal as well as have some people go to jail. They might just want to be able to testify that it didn't happen even if they don't think anyone would. It might even be something legal that you at your level are not aware of but they are protecting the company.

If it is just one manger who has HR looking at things, then likely he or she has had a specific complaint brought up. If you are the manager, be very careful what you say.

It is a common practice many places for an HR rep to be present if the performance review will be negative and the employee is in danger of getting fired. They want to make sure that the manager does nothing to give the employee a case for a law suit. They are a witness to what was said as well. And the presence of another person may make the employee less likely to react violently.

In any case, as the manager, you may wish to talk to the HR person beforehand and get a feel for what they want you to say and what they want you to avoid. HR is there to protect the company in some way and that should be your goal as a manager as well so you need to know how to best protect the company.

If there are issues you want to discuss privately (and they didn't come under the heading of what the HR rep told you not to say), then managers are allowed to meet with their employees any time. A good manager talks to each employee at least once a week. There is plenty of time for them to bring up delicate subjects or for you to get a feel for how they feel about delicate subjects. The performance review is not the place to do this.

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