Very few employees like critiquing others, and those that do are often unable to do it productively. Further, reviews very rarely have a clear line to raise amounts; in other words, it is not like getting 5 out of 5 on every category means the employee gets $5,000.

For these, and many other workplace-specific reasons, performance evaluations can be a trying experience. Regardless of whether we have any control over the process or outcome, here is a skinny, seven-step guide for making the year-end review process less painful.

1. Read

First, read over the projects, emails or reports the employee has done over the past year. Has her work markedly improved or maintained a pleasant consistency?

Come up with at least one sentence to describe her progress and whether that has been a welcome contribution or not.

2. Engage

Depending on the tool this may be a formal requirement; however even if it is not, engage the employee in the process. Ask her for an example of what she thought she did well and where she wants to continue growing.

3. Verify

Check in with whatever governing body runs the review process (executive committee, HR, etc.) and verify the process, timeline and expected results.

In other words, when will the process be complete? When will the employee receive their copy and if there is a raise component, when will that be announced and paid?

4. Imagine

Did you ever like getting a review? Take a minute to imagine being the employee. Remember that it can be a stressful process because it may be that her career, promotion, or raise hinges on this review.

If that is true or not, it can be helpful for us to keep that in the back of our minds during the conversation. For example, if the employee is particularly stressed about whether she will get a raise, yet we really want to emphasize a growth opportunity, she may not hear anything we say until she knows whether she is getting a raise.

5. Embrace

Very few performance management processes are perfectly aligned with their intent. Yet, if we embrace the tools at our disposal and acknowledge them for what they are, we can all move through the process smoothly.

In other words, if no one takes them seriously and there is no weight behind them, then acknowledge them as such and continue to give feedback in the way that works for the team.

6. Wait

It can be hard to sit in silence, but, with the review process, that is an important step. We may have spent a lot of time and effort crafting what we wrote but giving it to the employee and expecting her to be ready with her questions and comments right after she has read it is not reasonable.

If the process does not already allow for the employee to read the review ahead of the conversation, then allow for some wait time during the meeting so she can gather her thoughts and respond accordingly.

7. Suggest

While being clear is always good, demanding action rarely gets results. When asking an employee to make changes to her work or behavior, be sure to provide suggestions to her on how to accomplish the change.

Keeping these seven steps in mind will make any review process a little less painful.