Performance Appraisals: Are You Playing Games?

Sections of this topic

    “I find myself trying to avoid those annual appraisals with my people. Much as I try to keep the meeting focused, we always seem to get side tracked and involved in personal stuff.” – Health Care Manager

    During a recent training on performance reviews, I asked managers when they experienced problems. Many said it was during the discussion phase. Either the person who received performance feedback became defensive, or the manager when asked to explain her comments, became flustered. Here are some communication errors or games that affect performance appraisals. See if you’ve played them.

    As the Manager:

    • Acting the nice guy: Wants to avoid conflict so rates everyone high to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, regardless of performance.
    • Changing in mid-stream: Backs off from giving feedback if the person gets upset or emotional.
    • Disguising: Uses “sandwich” technique of good news – bad news – good news or slips bad news in during unrelated discussion.
    • Going one way: Gives either all negative or all positive feedback, leading the person to believe he can do nothing wrong or nothing right.
    • Going through the motions: Sends a clear message that this review is done out of duty and discussion is discouraged.

    As the Employee:

    • Stonewalling: Flatly rejects feedback as wrong or unusable or biased.
    • Excuse making: Always blames someone or something else. Favorite phrase is, “Yes, but…”
    • Clamming up: Will not respond to questions or discuss performance problems.
    • Counterattacking: Collects or creates and presents “evidence” to prove manager is wrong.
    • Bargaining: Focuses on the ratings rather than the feedback, negotiating to improve the score.

    Here are three tips to improve your communication whether an employee or manager.

    1. Don’t assume anything. Don’t let an employee or your manager think that you know what is going to be said. You may be wrong and therefore get off to a bad start.
    2. Don’t interrupt. Let the person have her full say. The person who is stopped may feel that her opinions are not important.
    3. Don’t react too quickly. We all tend to jump to conclusions. The person may use a word that makes us see red, or may express a situation badly. Try to understand, not necessarily agree, with the other’s viewpoint.

    Management Success Tip:

    Think back to a recent discussion you’ve had giving feedback to an employee or receiving feedback from your manager. Were any of the above games played? If so, what could you have done differently? Also see Performance Appraisals: A Quick Guide for Managers.

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?