Appraisals

by Kate Russell

Common questions

  1. Should I allow my notes to be visible so that the appraisee can see what I’m writing?
  2. How do I keep control if the appraisee is doing most of the talking?
  3. What should I do if the appraisee is very quiet/talkative/over-emotional/manipulative?
  4. How do I respond to an appraisee who is concerned that is not being promoted?
  5. How do I handle someone who disagrees with the my assessment of his performance?
  6. What can I do to motivate someone at the top of his pay scale/ near retirement/ who cannot be promoted because of a lack of opportunity?
  7. How do I praise an employee, without making it sound false?
  8. How can I offer criticism without making it sound like a telling off?
  9. How can I set meaningful objectives?

 

1. Should I allow my notes to be visible so that the appraisee can see what I’m writing?

Keep them in full view. It’s best to be open and honest; the appraisal will be more effective if there is trust between you. You shouldn’t be writing anything that you wouldn’t say to the appraisee face to face.

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2. How do I keep control if the appraisee is doing most of the talking?

While it’s easy to listen and think at the same time, it’s not so easy to think and talk at once. So the person who asks the questions tends to be in control of the pace and direction of the conversation, not the person doing all the talking.

If the appraisee seems to be veering off at a tangent, use closed questions to take control of the conversation, then switch to open questions to get back in the direction that you feel is most useful.

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3. What should I do if the appraisee is very quiet/talkative/over-emotional/manipulative?

If the appraisee is very quiet, start the discussion in safe areas to get him used to participating, then gently probe the answers. Try paraphrasing the question until you get an answer. Be alert for the person who suddenly goes quiet when you broach a particular topic. It usually means that you’ve touched a nerve, so paraphrase your question, using gentler language.

Closed questions can be very useful for interrupting talkative people. When they answer, you can probe the response to get them back on track. You can even ask, ‘How does that relate to the subject we are discussing?’

When someone appears to be emotional they either have, or feel they have, a valid reason to be upset. You need to find out what their concerns are.

Manipulative behaviour may take a variety of forms, such as shouting, using domineering body language or the use of sarcasm. Recognise the manipulation; stick to facts, working on the examination of evidence supporting the facts, and keep the discussion oriented towards solutions. It can be useful to reflect questions back, requiring the appraisee to explain to you what he means or why he’s reached a particular conclusion. Use a neutral tone of voice to show that you’re not rising to the bait.

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4. How do I respond to an appraisee who is concerned that he is not being promoted?

There are two main reasons why someone is not being promoted. First, he is good enough to be promoted but there is no suitable vacancy. Empathise, but focus on the fact that there has to be a suitable vacancy. Explain what you doing, what you will continue to do and what he can do to locate such a post.

Second, he may not be ready for promotion. It is a common misunderstanding that, just because someone is performing well in their current job, the promotion is theirs by right. Explain that promotion is not a reward for good performance. The route to promotion is to demonstrate the competencies required in the larger post.

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5. How do I handle someone who disagrees with my assessment of their performance?

Try not to get yourself into that position in the first place. It is almost always avoided if the appraiser and appraisee have agreed in advance the job purpose, key result areas, performance levels and other performance factors. Do that and hold regular informal appraisals and the appraisee is likely to identify their own overall performance rating.

If you still don’t get agreement, ask appraisee to consider the performance levels and ask them to justify the rating they feel is appropriate.

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6. What can I do to motivate someone at the top of their pay scale/near retirement/who cannot be promoted because of a lack of opportunity?

Appraisees are being paid for what they contribute to organisational performance, not for their attendance. They don’t have the right to reduce effort and commitment just because they’ve reached the top of their pay scale.

Acknowledge their feelings and comments. Reflect back what they have said to demonstrate that you have heard it; paraphrase it to show that you understood it, and ask relevant questions to demonstrate your genuine interest.

Ask questions to prompt their thoughts, for example:

  • How have criteria for promotion changed recently?
  • If you are the top of your pay scale, does that mean you are being paid above or below average for your job?
  • If you only have 18 months to go before retirement, do you want to look back on this period of your life as a waste of time or with satisfaction?

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7. How do I praise an employee, without making it sound false?

If you want to give praise, be mindful of the following:

  • Be specific, giving particular instances and examples
  • Give positive strokes
  • Make sure body language is consistent with behaviour.

Avoid the following:

  • Unspecific praise – a general ‘well done’ is meaningless if the recipient doesn’t know what we’re referring to
  • Too frequent praise – this becomes devalued
  • Superficial praise (for example, praising while giving your attention elsewhere)
  • Conditional praise (for example, giving praise at the same time as you ask for something, such as a favour)
  • Mixing praise with criticism.

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8. How can I offer criticism without making it sound like a telling off?

There are several reasons why criticism may misfire.

  • Some people are too liberal with their criticisms.
  • We tend to revert to childhood as subconscious memories are stirred.
  • Some appraisers, knowing that the appraisee will respond negatively, go in too hard to bolster themselves.

Criticise in private.

  • Ensure criticism is delivered in a timely fashion
  • Use specific and descriptive terminology.
  • Check with the appraisee that your description is correct, even when you are 100 per cent sure of the facts.
  • Describe the behaviour you want to see in the future.
  • Remind the appraisee that the problem is the behaviour, not them as a person.

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9. How can I set meaningful objectives?

Avoid the common objective-setting pitfalls:

  • Being imprecise

Vagueness means there could be debate about the achievement of the objective, how to monitor it or even what it means. A classic example is ‘Contribute to the effectiveness of the team.’ It doesn’t mean anything.

  • Quantifying the wrong things

If the appraiser quantifies the wrong things, the wrong things will be achieved. Requiring someone to increase customer contact by 25 per cent may not result in more sales, just more customer contact.

  • Ignoring some key result areas because they’re difficult to quantify.

Set SMART objectives:

S = specific and stretching

M = measurable and meaningful

A = agreed and achievable

R = realistic and relevant

T = trackable and timed

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