By Allison Pratt
[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]A[/dropcaps] supervisor was the subject of many complaints from his employees. “I don’t know where I stand with him”, “I had no idea he was unhappy with my performance until my review”, “I never know what he wants or expects” were comments the department manager and human resources heard on a regular basis. His own employees were afraid to go directly to him. Finally, the issue was identified. This supervisor was effective in most of his responsibilities, but he did not know how to effectively coach his employee’s performance. Identifying this missing skill and providing this supervisor with specific training turned his employee’s concerns around and reduced turnover for his group. In fact, he now has other employees seeking to transfer to his department!
One of the toughest challenges and most avoided responsibilities of the manager is providing performance feedback to the employee. Many managers will put off this important discussion, or gloss over real performance concerns. Especially difficult is dealing with the employee whose performance is substandard. Not having an effective performance management process in place, and managers who are not trained to conduct a performance appraisal can lead to morale problems and potentially even leave your company open to legal problems; claims of discrimination and harassment.
Some of the obstacles to a successful appraisal process include the lack of skills or awareness of the supervisor. Avoiding conflict is human nature and there is a tendency to avoid tough performance confrontations or to have an emotional, ineffective discussion when performance is addressed. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate your risk.
Tips for Legal Compliance
• Performance ratings must be job-related, with measurable and quantitative performance standards. Evaluations must be based on job responsibilities and a measurable standard must exist to compare employee behavior.
• Employees must be given a written copy of their job standards in advance of appraisals. The courts have looked favorably on companies who clearly provide employees with this information and unfavorably on those companies who did not.
• Managers who conduct the appraisal must be able to observe the behavior they are rating. A manager who works in another location from their subordinate must be careful to use facts vs. hearsay when conducting an evaluation. Phone calls and email exchanges can be considered observable behavior.
• An appeals procedure should be established to enable employees to express disagreement with the appraisal. This is a critical and often overlooked step. All employees need to be provided with a mechanism to voice their view of the appraisal process. Employees should be encouraged to provide a written rebuttal which is placed in the employee file along with the original review.
• Training is key. Supervisors should be trained to use the appraisal form correctly.
Supervisors should be trained to conduct the appraisal discussion correctly. This type of training is time well-spent as the success of the process begins and ends with the supervisor.
Why Performance Appraisal Systems Are Not Effective
There are many reasons why performance appraisals fail or falter. Do you see any of these symptoms in your company?
• Inadequate preparation on the part of the manager
• Employee not given clear objectives at beginning of performance period
• Manager may not be able to observe performance or have all the information
• Performance standards may not be clear
• Inconsistency in ratings among supervisors or other raters
• Rating personality vs. performance
• The halo effect, contrast effect or some other perceptual bias
• Inappropriate time span (either too short or too long) of evaluation
• Overemphasis on uncharacteristic performance
• Inflated ratings because managers do not want to deal with “bad news”
• Subjective or vague language in written appraisals
• Organizational politics or personal relationships cloud judgments
• Manager may not be trained at evaluation or giving feedback
• No follow up and coaching after the evaluation
Supervisor’s 3-Step Checklist for the Performance Appraisal
• Schedule the review in advance
• Ask the employee to prepare for the session by reviewing their performance, job objectives and development goals.
• Clearly state that this meeting will be the formal annual performance appraisal
2. Preparing for the Review:
• Review the performance documentation collected throughout the year.
• Concentrate on work patterns that have developed vs. isolated incidents.
• Be prepared to give specific examples of above or below average performance
• When performance falls short of expectations, determine what changes need to be made. If performance meets or exceeds expectations, discuss this and plan how to reinforce it.
• After the appraisal is written, set it aside for a few days and review it again. Make revisions.
• Follow whatever steps are required by your organization’s performance appraisal system.
3. Conducting the Review:
• Select a private location that is comfortable and free of distractions.
• Discuss each topic in the appraisal one at a time, considering both strengths and shortcomings.
• Be specific and descriptive, not general and judgmental. Report occurrences rather than evaluating them.
• Discuss your differences and resolve them. Solicit agreement and understanding of the evaluation.
• Jointly discuss and design plans for taking corrective action for growth and development.
• Maintain a professional and supportive approach to the appraisal discussion.
Additional Tips for the Manager
• Keep feedback balanced with positive and negative observations
• Listen to employees
• Don’t focus solely on negatives
• Be objective
• Have solutions to problems
• Use tact and diplomacy
• Listen before responding
Tips for the Employee
Employees also have a role in the successful performance appraisal. Most people consider the appraisal to be the 100% responsibility of the manager. However, the employee receiving the review must prepare themselves and be in the right mindset to have the most effective discussion. Here are some tips to accomplish that goal:
• Be open and receptive
• Be honest
• Create solutions
• Try to understand your manager’s perspective
• Don’t argue
• Don’t hold back/speak your mind
• Don’t be defensive
• Prepare in advance
• Listen before responding
So, with a bit of training and awareness, this challenging and important process can be much more effective for your organization. Please feel free to use these tips as guidelines for your company. Having appropriate forms and checklists can be very helpful for the supervisor and also in helping the staff member to prepare for the appraisal meeting. If you’d like a free Performance Appraisal form or a Supervisor Performance Appraisal Checklist, please email Allison Pratt at email@example.com.
Allison Pratt owns Pratt & Associates, a Human Resources consulting Company and has been a Human Resources professional with over thirty years of experience in all aspects of human resources management. Her experience is varied and includes corporate, consulting and academic perspectives and has provided a wide-range of clients with strong human resources support. Allison also teaches at the graduate and undergraduate levels for six local colleges and universities. Her specialties: HR Generalist services including areas such as mediation and conflict resolution, pre- and post-termination advice, harassment investigations and training, creating employee handbooks, performance management and supervisory coaching and training. For more information, please contact Allison Pratt at 949-588-8385 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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