Q. Some of my employees have not had performance evaluations in several years, including some of my more difficult workers with attitude problems. I'm sure some connection exists between the lack of an evaluation and their behavior, but shouldn't self-control reign in mature workers?
A. Without an effective performance appraisal process, some employees will gradually demonstrate problematic workplace behaviors that otherwise would not appear. The performance evaluation process contributes to productivity and positive workplace behaviors. Even the best, most self-disciplined employees benefit from performance appraisals, not only because of the recognition that comes from a job well done, but also because of the certainty of an adverse response from an unsatisfactory evaluation. Other important benefits of performance appraisals are their contribution to the establishment of boundaries and the promotion of an influential relationship between the supervisor and the employee. A meaningful performance evaluation is an important management tool that keeps these boundaries from becoming obscure, the result being diminished authority that is crucial to the supervisor's role.
Q. We use 360-degree evaluations. When I receive the feedback reports from my bosses, I often disagree with their criticism. How can I correct their faulty critiques without sounding defensive?
A. Approach others as if their criticism is objective and potentially accurate. You can’t reverse this process without appearing defensive. Make an earnest attempt to dig for more information in order to understand their point of view. Be genuine because you have more to gain for doing so. If they express criticism in vague or general terms, calmly ask for examples. This is the point at which things will become clearer. If they cite a specific instance of what they deem your poor performance, ask for a definition of what constitutes good performance in that case. As long as you inquire with an open mind and a friendly tone that makes it clear you want to learn and grow, then you will not come across as defensive. The best way to disagree with their input is to state your intent and ask them to help you strategize. An employee who accepts criticism well shines among peers. If you struggle with this skill, consider talking to BJC EAP.
Q. I have to confess, I have not done a performance appraisal with my employees in a couple of years. I have had no complaints, and employees are doing well. With so much to do, I just keep postponing it. It’s like exercise: I know I should do it, but I don’t. What am I risking?
A. Most supervisors know that performance appraisals are a good thing for employees and the company, but most aren’t aware of the important and powerful secondary effects of doing performance appraisals. One is the ability to defuse ticking time bombs. Many employees will bring personal complaints to the performance appraisal table such as conflicts, unfairness, resource deficiencies, discriminatory problems, harassment, reports of theft and existing safety risks. You may learn things you otherwise would never have discovered. Beyond these practical matters, performance appraisals empower employees and represent a good bonding tool. They help create loyalty and establish direction, help employees feel like they have goals and a stake in outcome and help them feel in control of their work lives. Research shows that employees feel ignored and hurt if they don’t get appraisals — even if they don’t anticipate a good one!