Traditionally, performance appraisals tended to be infrequent, top-down, subjective judgments of an employee’s performance. This usually involved a manager conducting an annual critique of past performance, often with little active input from the employee. These days, however, the pendulum may have swung a little too far in the opposite direction. Many employees are being asked to rate themselves, provide evidence of their ratings and forward to their manager prior to the appraisal discussion, often times leading to the manager turning up unprepared and under-contributing.

People’s perception of their own performance often differs from their managers and those around them, so if not prepared with care, the performance appraisal process can result in conflict and misunderstanding. Both sides can become defensive and the whole process is written off.

Used properly though, performance appraisals can help to build an open, positive, collaborative relationship between individuals and their managers. Set the performance appraisal up to be a two-way discussion without surprises:

  • Both parties prepare an assessment of performance versus expectations prior to the appraisal meeting and share with the other.
  • At the same time, ask the other if there are any specific issues they would like to address that they may need to prepare for.
  • Both parties review the previous appraisal and agreed actions and rate the follow-up and support.
  • Where there are specific performance issues to be addressed, prepare some ideas and options that you can draw upon in the meeting.

Enjoying the performance appraisal meeting:

  • Start with the areas of agreement and establish that you are both there to support the employee’s performance. Encourage the employee to start with their ideas for further development and collaborate on the next steps.
  • Next, cover their strengths and positive results. Both of you want the employee to play to their strengths, so that they can make the best possible contribution. Spending time reviewing and acknowledging the positives upfront supports their confidence and capability and also prevents the individual dwelling on issues regarding areas of concern to the exclusion of the positive.
  • Address the areas for improvement: encourage the employee to volunteer their own observations about weaknesses or performance lapses. This reduces defensiveness and reinforces collaboration. Identify contributing obstacles: is there anything stopping your team member from performing at their very best?
  • Be mindful that it is all too easy to dive into problems: avoid spending most of your time dwelling on these.
  • When the other person is talking, listen actively and where appropriate paraphrase to ensure your understanding is the same as what is being said. When you give and receive feedback, be sure to focus on the situation – not the individual.
  • Where there are disagreements, allow the person to describe their point of view and try to reach consensus before moving on.
  • With the issues identified and agreed, you can co-create solutions for improvement. Agree what each of you will do to change or support the other and set specific goals in order to resolve problems.
  • Agree to monthly development meetings where you can discuss progress and support performance.