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Performance Appraisals – Give Small Amounts of Balanced Feedback

If I hear this one more time I might lose it.

Manager:  “One of my employees has been making a lot of mistakes. He seems disengaged. I’m not sure what’s happening.”

Me:  “Have you talked to him?”People can only focus on one or two things at a time. Give small amounts of feedback often.

Manager:  “No. Performance appraisals are coming up, so I’ll just wait to give the feedback until then.”

Me:  “When are performance appraisals?”

Manager:  “In six weeks.”

Most people hoard feedback. We wait for the right time, aka when we’re comfortable. That time will never come. The right time to give feedback is when something happens or shortly thereafter. Practice the 24-hour rule and the one-week guideline. Give feedback when you’re not upset, but soon after the event occurs, so people remember what you’re talking about.

Most employees feel as if they’re treated unfairly during some portion of a performance appraisal. Employees receive feedback they’ve not previously heard, or receive feedback that is unbalanced – overly positive or negative, or the feedback is so vague employees aren’t sure what to do more, better or differently.

Good performance appraisals are a quick summary of all the performance conversations you’ve had during the year and planning for next year. To have an appraisal meeting like this one, managers need to meet with their employees regularly and give feedback every time you meet. And that is the management BEST suggestion I can make.

Meet regularly with your employees. If you never meet one-on-one with employees, start meeting monthly. If you meet monthly, meet twice a month. If you meet twice a month, consider meeting weekly for 30 minutes.

The one-on-one meeting agenda, which the employee owns:

  • What is the employee working on that’s going well?
  • What is the employee working on that is not going great, but she doesn’t want your help?
  • What is the employee working on this isn’t going great and she wants your help?
  • Give each other feedback: What went well since you last met?  What could be improved?

**  Give and receive feedback on the work and on your relationship. This will be hard the first few times you do it, but will become easier with each successive conversation.

Ask your employee to create a meeting agenda. Take notes on the agenda and keep your notes. The summary of these meetings becomes your annual performance appraisal.

Regardless of whether or not you’re meeting regularly, throughout the year and have performance notes, you can only give small pieces of feedback during the appraisal meeting. Discuss three SPECIFIC things the employee did well during the year and three things she should do next year. People can’t focus on more.

Think about the New Year’s resolutions you may have made last January. You might have promised yourself you’d save ten percent of your income, lose twenty pounds, take a two-week vacation without your phone, and apply to attend graduate school. How many of those things did you do?  Setting too many aggressive goals sets us up to fail. And performance appraisals are not different.

Consider how each of your employees must impact your department and your organization’s annual goals. In that context, determine the most important things each employee did to contribute to those goals this past year and what she should have done more, better or differently? That’s your appraisal. Not more and not less.

During performance appraisals, force yourself to focus on and present ONLY the most important behaviors and outcomes, and your employees will bring the same focus to the ensuing year.

How to Say Anything to Anyone Book

About 

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at www.candidculture.com.

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