Most managers feel some sort of reservation or concern when the scheduled performance reviews appear in the calendar. There is a range of reasons for this, including the anticipated response of the employee. This short article series will use a light-hearted approach to provide tactical and effective strategies to help reduce the dread that all too often surrounds conversations with staff about their performance. In many instances, we, as managers, feel overly compelled to provide observations and opinions.
In fact, we need to do that as well as encouraging comment and contribution from the employee. It is also important to remember that the employee is often anxious too, and two people feeling anxiety in the same room usually creates an even higher level of tension and discomfort. Yet there is no reason for it because there should be no surprises in a scheduled performance review conversation. Managers and employees ought to be having regular ad hoc and at the time of event conversations, which mean that praise is given when the deed is fresh and corrective feedback is given before the undesired behavior becomes a habit.
Conversation One: the High Achievers
Many managers would love to have a high achiever or talented performer on the team. Yet how do you provide them with good quality feedback? Truly talented employees know that they are good and may respond with cynicism when that is merely reinforced. High achievers are usually their own harshest critics and will pick up on their own areas for improvement before anyone else has even noticed. Managers of high achievers and talented staff can and should:
- Reinforce the quality of work and emphasise the impact it has on the rest of the team.
- Be conscious of how performance links to remuneration and reward to ensure that the employee is directing their talent to areas that will lift the bottom line performance.
- Engage the employee in what their growth and improvement plans are.
- Consider the employee’s level of interest in mentoring of coaching others, especially when you cannot promote or expand their job any more than it already is.
Conversation Two: the Employer Full of Excuses
That was a nice one to start with, but let’s be honest: most managers feel nervous about dealing with an employee who has the potential to respond with claims that they feel stressed or that they have been bullied. There is no way to prevent this from happening however, there are some tips to reduce the likelihood.
- Ensure that feedback is provided in a calm and reasonable fashion.
- Stay calm and do not buy into the emotion of their argument or response.
- Remember that as a manager have the right to provide reasonable instruction and expect the employee to follow that.
- Follow the process that your company has in place. Remember that this is feedback it is not a disciplinary process – although it might escalate to that, right now it is just performance feedback.
- If in doubt about how you will handle it, get advice from your HR advisor before the conversation.
Conversation Three: Those Who Meet The Requirements and Nothing Else
Another tricky, although less direct challenge is the steady performer who does what is required and no more. It can be tempting to encourage or motivate this employee to do more and improve. The question is, we all go through different career stages and for this employee work may not be their main source of satisfaction right now. As long as the employee does what is required and fulfils the expectations of the role there really should not be a problem. The challenge for the manager is what to say in the performance feedback conversation? Tell the person that their contribution is valued – as it is: every team needs people who can be relied on to be steady and deliver. Gently probe if the person is satisfied in the role and if they are, encourage them to keep doing what they are doing. If not, then help them with that. These are the first three challenging conversations. Stay tuned for the next six performance conversations.