Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Avoiding pitfalls in performance reviews.

A common consequence of being uncomfortable with conflict or confrontation is that managers and supervisors avoid giving performance reviews to their direct reports. Or if they do, they give mostly favorable ratings in order to avoid any unpleasantness. Here are some typical pitfalls and thoughts about how to avoid them.

- Poorly prepared review.
Make sure the written and verbal review discussion is well prepared, well thought out and well structured. Gather and organize your notes so you have all the necessary information at your fingertips.

- Not enough time for the meeting.
Allow enough time for free and full discussion. Schedule ample time for the meeting (60 - 90 minutes - remember, you don't have to use all of it). Meet in a private office with the door closed and avoid interruptions (forward your phone, put a note on the door, tell others that you're not to be disturbed).

- Talking too fast or too much.
Don’t do all the talking. Encourage response and questions. Get the employee talking about their own perceptions of their strengths and development needs. Don't be afraid of silence and allow enough time for the employee to process and understand what you're saying.

- Using absolutes (never, always, etc).
Choose your words carefully. Use description and specific examples rather than positive or negative evaluative comments. Avoid broad, general statements that are unsubstantiated.

- No examples.
List any performance deficiencies or specific areas of improvement needed and note specific examples (e.g. missed deadlines). Prepare for the discussion in advance so you know what you're going to say

- Getting emotional or sidetracked.
Try to present information in a positive, proactive way where the employee feels there's something they can do about it. Tell the truth. Don’t waffle, or be tentative about the discussion or information. Anticipate potential reactions to your statements in advance so you'll be prepared with a proper response.

- Not listening (or interrupting).
Listen more than you talk. Focus on understanding the employee’s comments. Avoid interrupting.

- No eye-contact.
When you make good eye-contact it signals you care, you’re engaged and you’re sure of yourself.

- Inauthentic praise.
Be sure to make a list of special accomplishments and demonstrated strengths with specific examples of the employee’s contributions.

- Unjustified ratings.
Make the ratings fair and honest. Avoid the tendency to inflate ratings to avoid conflict.

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