Time to Reappraise
By Lauren Stiller Rikleen
When Sue was called into a meeting with the Managing Partner, she
was curious, but not concerned. She had been working at the firm
for four years, and had always received satisfactory, albeit
generally perfunctory, performance reviews. But when she walked
into his office and saw the Director of Human Resources, she had a
sinking feeling that she was not there to receive a new assignment.
less than five minutes, Sue’s world changed dramatically as she was
told that she was being terminated. Too stunned to ask questions at
the time, only later did Sue feel rising anger at the unexpected and
brief discussion. And her frustration only increased as she thought
about her past annual performance reviews. Had she missed
something? Can it be that she really never saw this coming?
Sadly, the answer for Sue – and many others who find themselves
unexpectedly terminated – is that these events too often do come
without warning. The reasons can be found in the fundamental fear
that most managers have of providing negative feedback. The process
of properly addressing an employee’s work performance is so fraught
with discomfort that it rarely gets the time and attention it
is one of life’s truisms that activities which must be tended to on
an annual basis are generally considered to be dreary chores done
reluctantly and of necessity. Think: annual check-up, automobile
maintenance, and spring-cleaning. If you are a supervisor or
someone who is supervised – and it’s hard to imagine someone who dos
not fall into one of those categories – think: performance
matter how seasoned the manager or how talented the managed, most
annual reviews are dreaded events. And when finally implemented
(frequently, several months late), they can be awkward in tone and
inadequate in detail.
fact is, face-to-face discussions about someone’s strengths and
weaknesses are difficult. The positive messages delivered are
frequently too brief to seem validating, and few managers are
skilled at properly conveying negative feedback so it can truly be
heard and understood. The result is a performance appraisal where
the evaluator gets to check something off the to-do list, and the
person evaluated leaves the interaction puzzled, angry, or
frustrated, rather than with a clear understanding of job strengths
this sounds at all like the process in your organization, it may be
time to think differently about performance appraisals. While
rethinking, consider a total overhaul that is likely to result in
improved morale and better performance. Implementing the following
three tips can help you create a much more meaningful process.
Consider feedback as part of everyday conversation, rather than an
annual discussion. Liked the way a situation was handled? Offer
praise and an analysis of what factors contributed to the success.
Observed a poorly managed interaction? Immediately suggest some
helpful ideas for improved ways to manage a similar situation in the
future. And even better, do it in person, instead of by email.
2. Don’t hide behind technology to communicate with your
personnel. The irony of today’s workplace is that, even as there
are more ways than ever to communicate, there are fewer meaningful
conversations taking place. Technology has replaced direct
discussion, which results in an even more awkward formal review.
3. Try to avoid formal performance reviews where the feedback will
be unexpected. Information conveyed during a review process should
never be a surprise. Behavior cannot meaningfully be modified
through a conversation that only takes place annually. Most people
want to perform well and succeed. It is the manager’s job to make
sure employees understand what they need to do to improve
performance on an ongoing basis.
The bottom line? Performance appraisals could be far more effective
tools for improving behavior if they are integrated into an ongoing
culture of communication. Let your workplace be one where regular
feedback becomes part of a culture of success.
Read other articles and learn more
about Lauren Stiller Rikleen.
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