Mixed Signals

Performance appraisals present interesting challenges for leaders. Many times you procrastinate because you’re either really busy with other priorities or you just want to avoid doing the reviews.

Hint: you’re always busy. You need to make the time.

Employees want to know how they’re doing. They want your feedback (even though they may disagree with it). They want a formal opportunity to express their views.

When employees are doing well, it’s easy to reinforce and encourage them. If they’re doing poorly, presumably you’re already dealing with it (as poor performance needs to be nipped in the bud – never wait for the performance review).

I think managers find it hardest to review people who are mid-level players. You want to be encouraging, so your positive tone may mask the importance of areas for improvement. You may be afraid that they’ll leave, so you gloss over weaknesses.

When you do this, you’re giving mixed signals, and it’s not fair to either of you.

What to do? Prior to the review, provide the employee with some questions to create a written self-assessment. The results of this will identify the gaps between your perception and the employee’s. It also provides an advance view of the person’s expectations.

Make sure that you are crystal clear when you set expectations. Tell them what you expect in as specific and measurable terms as possible.

If you give raises in conjunction with performance reviews, be mindful of consistency. A lackluster review doesn’t merit a large raise. If you give higher raises in spite of your feedback, employees have less incentive to strive to perform better. After all, if you’re going to give them a good raise anyway, why bother?

Provide feedback periodically, not just at the time of the performance review. This will reinforce your expectations, and reduce the gap between what they and you think.

Have a great week!

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