In order for a company to succeed as a whole, its managers need to help their individual employees succeed by effectively managing their performance.
All managers can benefit from these reminders.
Managers’ attitude matters
“The attitude of managers is critical,” says Jeannette Seibly, Human Performance Coach and Consultant, SeibCo, LLC (Highlands Ranch, Colo.). “Managers must have a mindset for the employee to win.”
The goal is to evaluate the employee’s performance, not attack his character; to build the employee up, not tear him down. This shouldn’t be a “gotcha” kind of meeting, says Seibly. Nothing in the assessment should come as a surprise to an employee.
Seibly also notes that too many managers go into evaluations frustrated because they do not know what needs to be done to fix a performance deficiency. This “frustration will come across more than anything else” during the evaluation, she warns. She suggests that the manager should “ask a boss or ask a mentor” for guidance.
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- A 6-point checklist to prepare for the review session, plus 10 tips to conduct more effective reviews
- 5 evaluation tools that help rehabilitate problem employees
- 3 types of employee rating scales, from the simplest to the most complex
Communication skills are key
Whether having an informal performance coaching conversation or conducting a formal annual performance appraisal, managers should be reminded of these best communication practices.
• Be specific. Sweeping generalizations can too easily be misinterpreted or misunderstood. An employee needs to know exactly what he must stop doing or what he should continue to do.
• Support the assessment with evidence. Evidence doesn’t necessarily have to be tangible (e.g., a letter of praise from a customer); the manager’s visual observation of an example of stellar or substandard performance can suffice.
Written performance appraisals should include narrative comments to support ratings/rankings. Copying comments from the employee’s previous reviews or only changing a few words here and there isn’t acceptable.
• Set goals. Focus on improving or sustaining performance in the future, rather than dwelling on past mistakes. Negative feedback should include steps for improvement.
• Take protected class and protected leave out of the picture. Watch for signs of illegal discrimination. For example, age shouldn’t be noted as the reason for an employee’s inability to learn new technology, just as leave taken under the FMLA shouldn’t be used as evidence of an attendance problem.
• Talk with an employee, not at him. Some managers come across as more authoritative than necessary in order to be taken seriously. More times than not, however, such an approach backfires and puts an employee on the defensive.
• Do use a collaborative tone. Instead of telling the employee he should do this and he should do that, ask for his input on how to improve or maintain performance. You want “a two-way conversation,” says Seibly.
Employees should be allowed to explain their actions and question the assessment, within reason. It’s good to know what’s on an employee’s mind; if the employee’s thinking is flawed or the manager has misunderstood, this is the time to clear the air.
• Don’t sweep any awkwardness under the rug. For example, a recently promoted manager may have difficulty criticizing a friend and former peer. The manager should acknowledge this awkwardness and stress that the meeting is professional and not personal.
• Do use the sandwich approach. Seibly recommends saying two positive things, followed by two changes the employee needs to make (make them doable!), and then ending by making two more positive points. This approach is “so much more positive and powerful than anything else you can do,” says Seibly, who cautioned against listing more than two changes at once for fear of overwhelming the employee.
• Don’t apologize for negative feedback because doing so gives the impression that the assessment is inaccurate.
The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews will teach you and your managers:
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- How to phrase job descriptions so they cannot be construed as promises of future employment, remuneration or promotion. Did you know … courts in some states have deemed job descriptions to be legally binding contracts!
- 13 tests every job description must pass
- 6 ingredients every job description must include
- 1 big no-no when you must terminate an employee
- 4 tests to determine if a job description violates anti-discrimination laws
- Who should draft job descriptions – and who shouldn't
- 8 ways to make sure the performance standards you establish are realistic, plus 5 ways to determine whether they are clear and relevant
- 8 paths to effective logging of employee performance, and the 12 check-boxes every performance log must include