Today, obviously, I’m going to talk about performance appraisals. We’re getting to the end of the year, which is when many companies and organizations start their performance appraisal process, so I hope that this presentation is timely, if nothing else. In my presentation, I’m going to summarize what human resource experts say about performance appraisals—I’ll touch on what managers think, how employees react, and the overall effectiveness of the performance appraisal process. Throughout the presentation, I’ll be asking you some questions using these voting devices, which I”ll explain in a bit. I’ll also talk about some new practices that human resource experts are advocating, and if we have time, I’ll conclude with a few slides that focus on how to deal with difficult conversations—they’re soft skills that most everyone has probably heard, but they’re always worth hearing again.
Performance appraisals are very common—performance appraisals are given in approximately 80% of workplaces. I personally do not give performance appraisals at this point—I supervised two work study interns, who I had to evaluate annually, but most of my experience comes from the employee side.
A number of myths lead organizations to continue using the appraisal process…
When goals aren’t monitored year-round, the whole appraisal process is not taken seriously. Managers often lack sufficient information to judge performance accurately, so they have to rely on their opinions. Managers avoid giving honest critiques because they don’t want any conflict. Often times managers dread the appraisal process as much as employees do, so they procrastinate and don’t prepare adequately. Employees can be demoralized by ratings—a study I read cited a statistic that said that 80% of people see themselves in the top 25% of all performers. So 55% will be really demoralized by honest feedback about where they stand.
Managers are creating a workplace in which people feel controlled, not an environment conducive to exploration, learning, and progress.
Should merit pay be included in the performance appraisal? It depends on what you want the performance appraisal process to do…
Managers should be aware of what motivates their people—there are many kinds of ways to “reward” someone. In additional monetary rewards, managers can use verbal/social reinforcements (praise at a staff meeting, or in a one-on-one conversation), symbolic or tangible rewards (a plaque, or even a gift certificate to a restaurant or movie theater), work-related rewards (such as a promotion, special training opportunities).
Pass/fail systems rather than individual performance ratings, or no ratings at all, to emphasize feedback and future improvement—ratings, as mentioned before, can be demoralizing, so assessments that focus on qualitative feedback are becoming more popular. Peer review systems rather than manager-driven systems—peer reviews often have a high level of worker acceptance and involvement; they tend to be task-relevant and accurate. By helping peers to understand each others’ work and airing grievances in a non-threatening manner, peer reviews may also help people to get along better. This means better performance overall for the organization. These work best if all parties know that the reviews will not be used for setting pay or making decisions about promotions or disciplinary actions. Self-assessments are based on the idea that employees are the most familiar with their work. These self-reviews change the manager’s role to a counselor rather than a judge; this type of process can increase an employee’s commitment to improving performance. In organizations where managers are supervising large groups, upward assessments can be a useful tool. Upward assessments show areas where managers can improve performance—and this can increase their credibility with employees and improve communications. Managers (like employees) must be helped to accept and deal with the results of the assessment. 360s are the most comprehensive and costly type of appraisal—it includes self-ratings, peer review, and upward assessments. Feedback is sought from everyone, including customers or clients. Although it’s costly, this type of evaluation generally has high employee involvement and credibility and may have the most impact on an employee’s behavior or performance.
Difficult conversations are often a precursor to collaboration: they are a way to build trust. One way to make difficult conversations less difficult is to think about them in five stages. The first two stages should occur even before the conversation takes place. These are to, first, prepare for the conversation, and second, to imagine a resolution. Third, you want to invite the other person to have a dialogue, in which you’ll listen to their perspective and then explain yours. Finally, you should use this conversation to begin to collaborate on achieving a mutual resolution.
Don’t initiate a difficult conversation without doing sufficient preparation. Planning ahead of time allows you to imagine and practice for the “worst case scenario” Be open to the possibility that there are usually multiple realities: be curious about the other person’s version. They might know something that you don’t. Conflict can result when there are differences in 1) information; 2) observation; 3) interpretation; or 4) conclusions Choose a positive mindset- you have a choice about your mindset. Employee should prepare to
It is important to have a positive mindset so that the other participant does not feel like they are on the losing end of a power struggle. Focusing on potential improvements or what can be achieved will help defuse the tension during the conversation. It is important to remember that one objective of the conversation is to help improve the relationship, cooperation, and overall performance. Remaining open to the other person’s suggestions will go a long way toward achieving this objective.
When you initiate a difficult conversation, you want to explain your purpose and make sure that the other person feels comfortable enough to have a dialogue. Frame your points as things you’ve noticed from your perspective and acknowledge the other person’s feelings or observations before trying to resolve any issues. Example of different stories: I notice that we have different timelines for doing the dishes or I notice that our meetings are starting consistently 10 minutes late.
The biggest impediment to problem solving is blame; too much focus on figuring out who to blame can result in the problem being ignored Whenever you hear someone say something like “You’re lying!” You should automatically be curious and ask questions. Curiosity about the other person’s story will help you understand the situation more fully, and asking questions will show them that you’re trying to understand their perspective. Questions you should ask yourself include: I wonder what part of this is most important to them? What could bring us together on this issue?
Start with the points that you most want to get across and be clear about how you formed your conclusions; avoid extreme words like always or never; and remember to communicate to the other person that you are open-minded to their side of the story. Remember to be prepared for negative reactions. If you’re the manager, when you talk about poor performance, the employee may get upset—they could be angry and hostile, or they could cry or have some other kind of emotional outburst. If the appraisal session deteriorates, terminate it and reschedule the meeting. I think that as an employee, if you can tell you’re about to have a breakdown, it might be a good idea to say that you need some time to digest what the manager has said so that you can respond most effectively.
Be aware that the employee may lob a few negative comments at this point. Make sure that you’ve acknowledged their concerns and invite them to help identify improvements. Let them know that you are open to meet again if an attempted resolution does not work. Or if you cannot work through an issue successfully during the first conversation, convey that you are open to meeting again until you are able to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution. You might say, “I’m really hopeful that we can talk through this issue.”
Appraising Performance: Strategies and Lessons Learned Wendy K. Soo Hoo, Assistant City Auditor City of Seattle November 2004
At least two dozen studies over the last three decades conclusively documented that people who expect a reward for completing a task, or for doing that task successfully, simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all.