How to Have Better Performance Evaluation Conversations
Holly G. Green
It’s that time of the year we all dread.
No, not fighting the crowds at shopping malls or maxing out
the credit cards with over-indulgent holiday spending. I’m talking
about the bane of managers and employees everywhere -- year-end
Let’s face it. Most managers dislike giving performance
evaluations and most employees hate receiving them. And giving
feedback can be even more difficult when it involves negative
information. But performance evaluations let employees know how
their performance measures up to job expectations. They offer an
opportunity to revisit old goals and set new ones. And most
important, they ensure that employees have the information they need
to continue to be productive contributors to the organization.
Ideally, performance feedback should be given regularly
throughout the year. This helps to keep employees on track with
achieving their goals and identify small problems before they become
big ones. But too often, these important conversations get lost in
the day-to-day struggle to get the product out the door on time.
When that happens, the only recourse is one big end-of-year
performance evaluation that both sides dread.
To conduct better performance evaluations while reducing the
anxiety that often accompanies them, try the following:
time, date and location for the discussion and carve it in stone
or just make darn sure it is in your PDA. Show up on time and
ask the employee to do the same.
setting that enhances discussion and fosters open
communication. Make sure the location is private, especially
for difficult discussions.
physical barriers, such as your desk. If holding the
conversation in an office, move to the same side of the desk or
to adjacent corners at a table.
meeting seriously. Don’t allow interruptions and don’t try to
work on something else at the same time.
Have your major points of feedback already in mind and
discussion centered on the data rather than on emotions or
employees divert the discussion into irrelevant tangents.
Gently bring the discussion back on track as soon as they occur.
Focus on the
desired outcome from the feedback. Don’t get stuck in past
a performance issue, clearly define the problem and explain why
it is a problem. Then concentrate on the solution.
Be present. If
you appear distracted or disinterested, it sends a silent (but
loud) message to the employee that you don’t consider the
discussion to be important.
tone that reflects the feedback. For example, a light-hearted
feeling may be appropriate for a congratulatory talk, but would
be inappropriate for a serious performance problem.
situations, display empathy while maintaining directness and
evaluation involves a dialog, not a monolog. Allow plenty of
time for two-way discussion.
employee to present his or her side of the issue, especially
when discussing performance problems. Stay open to hearing new
information that may change your perspective.
listen. When the employee finishes speaking, restate what he or
she just said and check for understanding.
concrete outcomes. Make sure both sides have a common
understanding about any action items coming out of the meeting.
To address any
problems and more fully support superior performance, be clear
on what will be done, by when, and by whom.
action items in writing.
And one golden rule to keep in mind: annual performance
conversations are never a time for surprises! If you have a message
to deliver that is going to surprise an employee, it means you have
not done your job throughout the year and you really need to think
about that as a leader or manager.
The more often you have these types of conversations, the
less painful they get. If you find yourself dreading year-end
evaluations, make a point to have at least one per quarter with
every employee. Or better still, one per month. You’ll get more
comfortable giving feedback. Your employees will appreciate knowing
where they stand. And both of you will have one less thing to
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Holly G. Green.
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