Editor’s note: this post originally published December 16, 2010.
Ideally, the goal of your employee performance appraisals is to give employees feedback, direction and development so they can be their best. But in many cases, performance appraisals demoralize and discourage employees rather than engage and inspire them. Often, this is because the process fails to respect the individuals involved. Instead, the focus is put on filling out forms, and rating and ranking employees as “resources” rather than as individuals. Here are some practical ways every manager can make their employee performance appraisals more respectful:
1. Seek your employee’s point of view
Before you make any decisions or judgments about performance, seek your employee’s perspective. Ask them how they perceive their performance, their strengths, their weaknesses, the challenges facing their role, etc. You can do this formally using a self-appraisal, but you can use things like periodic one-on-one meetings, staff meetings, progress reports, performance journals, etc. to get your employee’s perspective and allow them to provide details and context you might be missing.
2. Make it a two-way dialogue
Your performance appraisal meeting should be a conversation about your employee’s performance, development, expectations, needs, etc. Don’t just tell them what your ratings are and assign them goals. Ask them what you could do to better support their performance. Share your ideas, insights and observations. Solicit their input on goals. Ask what kind of learning activities best suit their learning style. Discuss your ratings and explain why and how you arrived at them. Ask for their perspective and discuss all this in a respectful way that accommodates differences in communication style.
3. Value the employee for who they are
Sometimes as managers, we measure our employees against some fictional image of an ideal employee. The truth is, none of us is perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, our good and bad days. No amount of training or coaching will ever make any of us perfect. So be realistic about your employee’s skills, experience, abilities and weaknesses. Value and respect your employee for who they are, not an idealistic image. Find ways to maximize their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses. And if they truly aren’t a good fit for their current role, work with them in a respectful way to them find work they are suited for.
4. Focus on the positive
In performance appraisals, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives. We think our work as managers is to identify and correct poor performance. But focusing on our employee’s good performance is a more respectful and ultimately productive way to approach the task. Work with your employee to identify the things that make them successful. What kinds of people do they work best with? What work ignites their passion? What conditions help them be creative or excel? By identifying the factors that support great performance, and working to recreate them with and for our employee, we help them be their best.
5. Be constructive
If you have negative feedback to deliver, do it in a constructive way. Tell your employee what they need to do to improve, and provide them with coaching, feedback and development to help them improve. Then make sure you follow up with regular reviews, and recognize and reward progress.