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Performance Appraisals: Better than a Root Canal?

Performance Appraisals: Better than a Root Canal?

Posted on 05/27/2015

A friend of mine who manages a department in a large, multi-national corporation recently posted the following comment on FaceBook:

“I overheard our organizational effectiveness manager say ‘It’s performance appraisal season!’ It’s got its own season now?! Greeeat. Think extended root canal.”

My first thought was “Hey! Why is she dissing my people?” Because, of course, as a talent management consultant, I help organizations develop and implement performance management systems. My second thought was a slightly sarcastic “What could be worse than performance appraisal season? No performance feedback at all!”

And then I thought, “Hmm, she might have a point. A poor performance appraisal system could feel like Dante’s 9th circle of hell (an icy pit of treachery and betrayal).” Even in the best circumstances, providing performance evaluations can be time consuming, stressful, and uncomfortable. And that’s just the manager perspective!

But, it’s important. It’s one of the most important things you need to do as a manager. Performance management is critical for organizations to stay competitive, keep top talent, and ensure a pipeline of effective leaders.

And, your employees need feedback. In fact, while some may deny it, they want feedback. Even if being a CEO isn’t their goal, they want to keep moving forward, learning and growing professionally, and doing well. This is true even of - or especially of - your younger employees – millennials.

Employees want regular feedback that is helpful, accurate, generalizable, and actionable. That’s my way of paraphrasing a lot of research, but it comes down to this:

  • Establish a system that recognizes and rewards outstanding performance, develops potential, and corrects or minimizes poor performance patterns.
  • Make sure your feedback addresses job responsibilities and performance – particularly emphasizing behaviors and outcomes that are under the employee’s control.
  • Give feedback on an ongoing basis, not just once a year. Weekly performance feedback may be too much, but if you wait until the end of the year, a lot of things will be forgotten and bad habits may have taken hold.
  • On the other hand, give corrective feedback immediately. No one should learn in December that they’re not getting a raise because they’ve been using the metric system instead of U.S. customary units.
  • Make it a dialogue – not a monologue. Ask employees how they think they’re doing and what else they’d like to be doing. Listen to them and act on their comments – just as you expect them to act on your comments.
  • Finally, and this is critical to keeping employees engaged and committed, if they are doing well, assume they’re capable of more and better – give them developmental opportunities.

The bottom line is: It is your job to provide feedback. Best to make sure it’s done right. You can’t please everybody, and some employees will always complain or cringe at the appraisal process, but performance feedback can and should feel like a gift to your employees, not an extended root canal.

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