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Bad Things Happen When You Go Easy in Performance Reviews

5/2/2016 (Permalink)

Contributed by Shannon Perez, General Manager

Here is some guidance on how to conduct Performance Reviews that I really appreciated.  The article was found on HRMorning.com and is written by Christian Schappel.  This is very useful information, especially for those of us who have long-time employees and might be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.  Read on and hope you gain as much as I have from this article.  

Bad Things Happen When You Go Easy in Performance Reviews:

Oh, goodie! It’s performance review time,” said no manager … ever. And as a result of this lack of enthusiasm, managers can screw them up — royally. Thankfully, we just found something very handy to help them avoid screw-ups.

Our good friends over at ResourcefulManager (we’ve told you about them before) recently put together an interesting presentation worth showing to your managers. It outlines the very bad — and often expensive — things that can happen when managers sugarcoat employee performance reviews.

Specifically, the presentation names ways — besides getting sued — in which easygoing reviews can cost you dearly (they start around slide 35 below).

The presentation below outlines what a sugarcoated review looks like, why it’s harmful, as well as the benefits of telling employees the honest truth (again, it goes beyond simply avoiding the courtroom).

Don’t let the slide count fool you, the presentation moves quickly. Managers will only need to dedicate about three minutes to it for them to understand the ramifications of going easy on under-performing employees.

How to have a difficult conversation

Of course, the problem stems from managers dreading uncomfortable conversations with employees.

Naturally, no employee wants to hear he stinks, and no manager wants to tell him he stinks. But it must be done.

By sticking to some do’s and don’ts managers can eliminate some of the awkwardness, take control of the conversation and achieve their objective — a substantial change in an employee’s performance or behavior.

Here’s a checklist we prepared that’s worth passing along to you managers:


§  Do be specific about what you want. The mistake some managers make when shooting for a goal is using general terms.
Example: A manager says, “You’re too laid-back. I want you to be more aggressive and proactive.” Nice, safe terms, but the employee ends up thinking, “What’s that mean?”
Instead, the manager could say, “I want you to call five ex-customers a week, find out why they left us and report back to me on what they said.” That establishes clear goals.

§  Do let the employee rant — a little. Some people feel the need to blow off steam or maybe mount a defense, even a flimsy one, for their behavior. That’s OK. You don’t want them to feel like they’re on the witness stand and can’t ramble a little. If they think the point of the conversation is just so you can cross-examine them, that’ll just give them an excuse to throw up their defenses and refuse to cooperate. So let them go on for a while, and then steer the conversation back to the point.

§  Do use “we.” Try to get the idea across that the issue is a problem for everyone involved. That often requires saying something as simple as, “We have a problem” or “We need to change.”
Then the person on the other side of the desk realizes the behavior is important and affects everyone – but without finger-pointing. In other words, focus on the problem, not the person.
Bad example: “You’re too argumentative.”
Better: “The continual arguments are hurting our productivity.”


§  Don’t continually use “you.” Putting all the responsibility on the employee is a conversational black hole that’s almost impossible to escape from. The use of “you” — as in “You didn’t finish the job on time” — is an invitation to a fight. Contrast that with: “We need to talk about why the job wasn’t finished on time.”
No accusations, no blame. Just a conversation starter that works.
Let’s admit here that at some point you are going to have to use “you”; after all, we are talking about a specific person causing a specific problem. Just be aware that there are alternatives to continually using “you” in a negative way that kills the conversation.

§  Don’t use “however” or “but.” Some managers think if they lead with a compliment, it’s then easier to wade slowly into the problem. A symptom of that thinking comes out in conversations that go something like: “You’ve done a pretty good job, but …” and then the manager lowers the boom on the employee.
People aren’t fooled by that approach, and in fact, it often gets them angry and thinking, “She can never just say something positive.”
Consider substituting “and” for “but” and “however.” You’ll see how much smoother and positive the conversation can be.
Example: “You’ve done a pretty good job, and we need to talk about how to get back up to that level.”

§  Don’t feel as if you have to fill every silence. In an especially tense situation, you’ll be tempted to fill in every silent pause. Stay silent when there’s a lull in the conversation, and obligate the other person to fill in the silence. You’ll be surprised by the amount of information you get without even asking a question.

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