Eight questions to ask before handling a worker’s appraisal

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In the Workplace
Rey A. H. Elbo

I was promoted from within as a manager of a small business. This is my first time to handle the performance evaluation of our employees. Our HR department gave me the guidelines and the forms, but they lack guidance on the proper way to handle objections and other related concerns. How would you propose for me to proceed with those issues in mind? — Baby Steps

A parish priest was waxing eloquently as he described Judgment Day to his parishioners: “Lightning will flash, thunder will boom, rivers will overflow… fire will flame from the heavens… and the earth will move violently, until darkness will fall upon us!” Then a small boy whispered to ask his father:

“Dad, do you think they’ll cancel classes on that day?”

It’s an innocent reaction from a babe’s mouth, upon hearing what would it be like on the Day of Judgment. Just like you, some new line executives could experience the same thing knowing the gravity of their responsibility, when they conduct performance evaluation which is often viewed as a difficult exercise by both managers and their workers.

But, you’re not new to the system as you’ve been with the company prior to your promotion. That means, you know how it feels from the side of being evaluated. And I’m sure you know how tricky it has become to summarize one year’s performance in a series of check marks and few sentences. In addition, one’s daily business tends to push back the annual evaluation to a lower priority resulting in many managers’ tendency to procrastinate. More often than not, some managers don’t like to do annual reviews, and end up giving average ratings if only to avoid any conflict with the workers.

That’s the way it goes. You can’t avoid handling appraisal reviews. Nevertheless, despite of all these difficulties, all performance reviews can be effective and efficient if they are done carefully by managers being guided by some basic questions preparatory to their meeting with the workers. Here are some of them:

First, are the performance target and standards mutually agreed between the boss and their workers? If the answer is in the affirmative, there should be no doubt that the performance appraisal will be easy, quick, and at times — heart-warming.

Second, are the target and standards written clearly leaving no room for doubts and misinterpretation? There’s nothing worse than starting to prepare for an annual review and drawing blank when the documents are nowhere to be found.

Third, what are the strengths of an employee as proven by his accomplishments? There’s no better way but to start and end an appraisal interview with positive and sincere assessments to help establish continued rapport with the workers and motivate them.

Fourth, what are the specific improvement points that a worker must consider and learn? Avoid vague generalization. Define in real terms how the worker has missed the performance target, if not used wrong standards in trying to accomplish them.

Fifth, what could be the possible defense or alibi that a concerned employee could raise? This question is part of a potential problem analysis that every manager should take. By anticipating the issues, a manager should be able to properly handle such reactions.

Sixth, what specific solution or corrective action would you propose to the concerned workers? Likewise, be open to the worker’s suggestions in the spirit of co-ownership. If possible, generate many possible options that are easy to do and requires little time and budget.

Seventh, how would you convince the worker to remain positive given the circumstances? If one is given a low mark, there’s no better option than to encourage the worker that it’s not the end of the world. However, it can only happen if you as the manager are willing to help.

Eight, how would you monitor the agreed corrective action with the employee? You can’t simply wait for another year to find out. It would be too late if you do only that. Therefore, take the time to regularly check his work without him knowing that you’re snoopervising.

Of course, it’s better if you talk to the concerned worker from time to time, as you continue offering assistance on how to make his job better than before. Bringing the employees to their full potential doesn’t start and end with the performance evaluation process. Whatever you do, be constructive and positive all the way. That’s the best way to disarm a belligerent worker.

ELBONOMICS: There’s no use in saying you did your best. You must do your best in what’s necessary.