HR Management & Compliance

Performance Appraisal Meeting Mistakes: How Many Do Your Supervisors Make?

Just as important as the appraisal form is the appraisal meeting. But a botched session can leave employees confused or even angry. Here’s a list of common meeting miscues.

In October, Daily Advisor ran a Bob Brady column on “the perfect performance appraisal.” It was one of the most popular things we’ve done. More than 1,300 of you wrote us about it, asking for a copy of the form that would, in Bob’s “e-pinion”, help achieve that perfection.

Of course, the form is only part of the appraisal process. Also of great importance is the performance appraisal meeting, usually conducted by the supervisor of the employee under review.

Done well, this vital session can leave the participants feeling newly motivated and eager to implement whatever agreements were reached. Done poorly, the employee may leave no wiser than he or she came in, or worse, depart confused or even angry at the treatment received.

How do you achieve the first and avoid the second? One way is alert your supervisors to this list of common meeting mistakes, collected by management consultant Rhoma Young of Rhoma Young Associates in Oakland, California. Young presented the list to a seminar run by Employer Resource Institute. Here are some of Young’s collection of appraisal meeting miscues:

–Failure to fully explain the rationale of the evaluation process to the employee.

–Rushing the meeting or allowing insufficient time for dialog.

–Doing too much of the talking yourself instead of actively listening to the employee.

–Discussing activities instead of the results of those activities.

–Avoiding or underemphasizing performance problems.

–Being too negative when you do discuss problems.

–Over-praising, the opposite sin.

–Failure to cite specifics to support the rating.

–Comparing employees instead of making individual assessments.

–Getting sidetracked or bogged down in details.

–Forgetting that “facts” reported about the employee may reflect unconscious attitudes by others who gave input to the review.

–Failure to build on the employee’s strengths in devising solutions.

–Becoming emotionally involved and losing objectivity.

–Basing a favorable overall rating on only one job aspect. This is known as the “halo effect.”

–Failure to involve the employee in creating solutions to performance problems, and then to produce written plans of those solutions, with specific goals, objectives, and target dates.

–Failure to close with a summary that leaves employees with a clear understanding of where they stand, what they need to do to meet standards, and how and when the supervisor will help in that process.

“Don’t Talk About Process”

Steven Meyer, head of business publisher B21, in his discussion of how to conduct appraisal meetings, suggests testing employee comprehension of their situation with the technique of “mirroring” … repeating back to employees what they’ve said and asking if you understood it correctly. He also agrees with Young’s point about discussing results, not activities. “When employees aren’t getting results, they tend to direct the conversation toward process. Don’t let them,” Meyer cautions.

He concludes with a post-meeting activity: “Ask employees to draft a quick memo that, 1) states their objectives, and 2) explains what they need to do differently from this point on in order to achieve them,” he says.

What performance appraisal meeting mistakes have you run into? And what do you do about supervisors who make them? Use the Share Your Comments button and let us know.