Employee appraisals – managing awkward conversations

In this two minute HR Blast we focus on employee appraisals – top tips for dealing with the difficult stuff! We thought you would also like to see our light hearted take on ‘how not to fill in an appraisal review form’ … this is at the end if you have just an extra minute or two and fancy a chuckle!

The difficult stuff – 8 scenarios you may have to face:

Employee asks for a pay review despite knowing there is a company wide embargo on mid term reviews

  1. Give the employee an opportunity to explain why they think a review is warranted. Take the time to listen to them rather than just dismiss them.
  2. Explain that there is an embargo and explain fully the business reasons for it rather than just assuming the employee fully understands those.
  3. If this employee would not get a pay review even if there was no embargo, you have got to be clear with them about this and not raise their expectations for a future review. Fudging the issues only causes demotivation and problems further down the line.
  4. Ask the employee if there are types of projects or areas for development that would be of interest to them as a way of reflecting that despite saying no, the organisation does value them.
  5. Even if it is six months away, provide a definitive date when a pay review will occur.

Employee asks for a promotion but you know they are not ready for the role yet

  1. Ask them why they feel they are ready for a promotion and be courteous in listening to their response. Consider their response, rather than dismiss anything without appearing to having thought about it.
  2. Be clear about the fact that you do not consider them ready for the role yet and be specific about what areas of their current role they are not yet fully performing in.
  3. Do not fudge the issue if you do not consider them ready for a promotion. Sometimes in life you just have to be courageous.
  4. Be prepared to spend time with them creating a plan for development that will ready them for the next role.
  5. Be clear in your own mind about the difference between someone who is not ready for promotion and someone who will never be ready for the next role up. It is hard when someone has reached the limits of their potential but at times you just have to tell them as it is.

Employee insists they are a good team player, but you know they endlessly irritate others

  1. Consider using a 360 degree feedback tool so that team members have an opportunity to provide their feedback which hopefully will support your own. This makes the feedback harder to deny or ignore.
  2. Don’t just have one example to use when responding to this issue, make sure you have five or six examples to reinforce your point.
  3. Be clear about what you are asking them to do more of, or less of, in order to improve their team playing capabilities/approach.
  4. Ensure that all your examples closely relate to the achievement of organisational goals. Avoid anything that might appear to be a personal preference or opinion.
  5. Consider using a psychometric profile and some one to one coaching to provide an opportunity for them to better understand how they communicate and behave at work and how that can impact on others.

Employee has written a list of 20 things they want to raise with you even though most are not to do with reviewing their performance

  1. Thank the employee for taking such a thorough approach to the review but then say that for the purposes of this review you need to stick very firmly to issues around performance management.
  2. Set a different date to meet with the employee to work through the other points on their list.
  3. Encourage the employee in future, to raise issues on a day to day basis rather than save it all up for the review.
  4. Ensure the employee knows that whilst there is an opportunity for them to raise issues, this meeting will predominantly focus on reviewing performance in line with the review form structure.
  5. If the employee’s list is preventing a good discussion, then consider parking the review, dealing with the items in their list and setting a new date for the review.

Employee has arrived looking very defensive and nervous

  1. Put more time and effort into your introduction with a view to relaxing them.
  2. Ask them what in particular is making them anxious.
  3. Put a time limit on the meeting so they know when they will be able to escape.
  4. Explain the structure and format of the meeting and the reasons why the company holds review meetings. This gives the review a framework and can make it feel less personal.
  5. Consider if the room you are meeting in is overly imposing or formal and if appropriate find an environment that is less intimidating.

Employee has arrived looking as though they are ready for a punch up

  1. Remind yourself that this might be a time to do more listening than talking.
  2. Don’t ignore their foul mood. Ask them about it as you cannot even begin the review properly until your employee is in the right frame of mind.
  3. Consider this an opportunity to improve your ‘dealing with confrontation’ skills.
  4. Do not expose yourself to danger therefore ensure your meeting is not in an isolated location and do not aim to liven up the day by winding them up even further.
  5. Ask the employee if they would prefer to defer the review meeting to a different date and that instead today’s meeting can be used to discuss what is on their mind.

Employee asks for training that is simply not relevant to their role

  1. For any training request, ask the employee to demonstrate clearly why they think it is relevant and challenge them where you do not consider it relevant.
  2. Be clear about training required for the current role they are in and training required to develop their career.
  3. Do not be vague when rejecting training requests.
  4. Employees often get irritated when training is rejected out of hand. So suggest you take some time to consider their request and respond to them by email (i.e. in writing) in a couple of days.
  5. Consider taking the time to work with the employee to create a 5 year career plan for them, discussing what training they will need. Identify how much of this they should be doing themselves across the 5 years and how much it is realistic to expect the organisation to support with.

Employee has an “I’m not interested” face on due to reasons such as working beyond retirement or about to go off on maternity leave

  1. Explain why the organisation needs to assess and review the performance of all staff and how it would be inappropriate to not review just certain groups of people or let individuals opt out.
  2. Say that given where their interests lie you are happy to focus more on their current job content than say on sections of the review relating to training and development and future career progression.
  3. Be clear in that you expect them to engage in this process just as much as anyone else.
  4. Identify if there are opportunities for them to get involved in projects or initiatives that will engage and motivate them at a time when they are not actively seeking promotions or career progression.
  5. Recognise why they are reluctant and offer to keep the review meeting short and relevant to current needs.

Your two minutes is up! But if you have a few extra minutes and fancy a chuckle then why not take a look at our very light hearted ‘how not to write up an appraisal review’.

Alternatively, if you would like support with developing managers’ appraisal skills, want to run a workshop on managing sensitive issues, would like us to redraft your review documentation, please do get in touch. 

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individuals matters.

Employee Appraisal Form

Name: Juliana

Job Title: Receptionist

Manager’s Name: Boan Idol

Date: Today

Thoughts on their current role and how it adds value

Juliana said we don’t pay her enough for what she does and that she is really fed up with people thinking she is paid to make cups of coffee and load the dishwasher. Juliana says she likes meeting and greeting visitors but wishes we had some better looking visitors sometimes. She says the place goes to pot when she is off sick or on holiday and sometime soon someone is going to realise that she is a really important part of the organisation. She says she would also like a clothing allowance to give a really smart first impression to visitors. She has her eye on some great shoes. She says good shoes always make an organisation look successful so she can add value this way.

What has been achieved since the last review?

Juliana hasn’t been whinging as much as she has done in previous years but she puts this down to having a better phone now which means she can keep up with Facebook in between phone calls, visitors and loading the dishwasher. She is not at all happy though that the new CCTV camera in reception which was bought to provide better security for her actually gives her no privacy to put her make up on or make personal calls. Apparently this is an invasion of her privacy and has something to do with Human Rights. Juliana has received fewer customer complaints this year about her haphazard approach to meeting and greeting and is well liked by colleagues, particularly those who enjoy the cupcakes she often brings in to work.

What has been learnt in the past year and how have you improved the way you do your job?

Juliana is proud to have developed techniques to always be away from her desk when a visitor arrives. She has also learnt that due to having an ever absent manager who doesn’t seem to know she exists (that would be me!) no one really notices if she has a long lunch break or goes home a bit early. She explained that this demonstrates her improved time management abilities.

What provides most buzz in the role and equally what demotivates at work?

Juliana says that she always looks forward to the weekend and also Thursday nights as everyone knows Thursday night is the new Friday. She says she dislikes getting up on Fridays and feels that Friday should be a late start to reflect peoples changing social patterns for going out. She says she also looks forward to bank holidays as sometimes she can sneak an extra day off to make it a really good weekend. I think she notes these down as sick rather than holiday, but just pulling a sickie seems to give her a buzz.

What training needs have been identified

Juliana has asked for image consultancy and make up classes. I was quite intimidated by her so didn’t like to manage her expectations in this regard. Juliana also says she would like to do an MBA so that one day she can apply for a really well paid job and would like that to be paid by the company. Oh she also wants one day off per week to do the required work for her MBA. She says this will add enormous value to the business.

Targets for next year

What is to be achieved, by when, and how will you know when it’s done?

Improved timekeeping – at start of day, for breaks and at end of the day – I have asked Juliana to be in work more often otherwise I will have to take this more seriously. I said she needs to pull her weight more but this opened up a can of worms that made me back off fast, even though she is definitely a size zero (at least I think she is).

Reduced one day sickness absences – I told Juliana that she took too many Fridays and Mondays off work and it looked like a pattern to me rather than genuine sickness. She asked me why I was raising this now and also why I never bothered to conduct the return to work interviews that others got. She suggested this was because I neglected to manage her. She did though say she would try.

Improved relationships with colleagues – I said that her colleagues often found that she didn’t pull … oops … that she didn’t work as hard as them and that she needed to build bridges. She took this opportunity to suggest that her cup cakes always motivated her colleagues and presumably it was okay for her to submit an invoice for the ingredients as all this motivating others was costing her a fortune, but was after all in the best interests of the business. I said I would ask.

Being friendlier and more helpful with visitors – I raised the issue of Juliana either not being at her desk when visitors arrived or otherwise giving them minimum attention and information which had resulted in some complaints. Juliana said that if I took the dishwasher duties off her she might be able to spend more time in reception. She said she was friendly but that visitors shouldn’t always be so demanding and shouldn’t expect her to be nice to them if they interrupted her personal conversations or messaging. She suggested she found it very stressful to be interrupted when concentrating.

Any other comments?

Juliana said that she liked my style of management as I don’t micro manage, which no one ever likes. She also said she liked the fact that I trusted her enough to let her get on with her job. She likes the fact that I listen to her and acknowledge how we could support her more. She is pleased that the company does give pay rises across the board for everyone rather than take the rather limited approach some of her friends experience which is only good performers are given pay rises. She says that this approach penalises people who aren’t in exciting jobs and has a negative impact on team work. I didn’t tell her that she scares the life out of me. I wanted to though.

Performance rating (poor, satisfactory, good, excellent)

It was a good meeting and we had a full and frank discussion of many issues.

Performance rating: Good


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