How To Conduct A Successful Performance Appraisal

By: Jonathan Farrington


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Most organisations review the performance of their employees on a regular basis, usually annually. The term appraisal however, is disliked by many, conjuring up images of a superior passing judgement in a god like fashion. The answer must be to establish good relationships between both.

Every manager has to appraise subordinates and the mechanics of it vary from ticking little boxes, through marking on five-point scales, to writing an open ended report. These notes however, are mainly concerned with relationships.

The primary purpose of an appraisal is to help the subordinate.

Reasons for an Appraisal:

  • To provide feedback of individual performance.
  • To plan for future promotions and successions.
  • To assess training and development needs.
  • To provide information for salary planning and special awards.
  • To contribute to corporate career planning.
The three main principles for appraisal and counselling interviews:

1.  Everything written should be shown and shared

    - Secrecy breeds suspicion
    - Suspicion destroys a counselling relationship

Two specific aspects often withheld are those relating to: -

a)  Poor performance

b)  Potential promotion.

In the first the secrecy reflects the managerís own anxiety, telling someone they are doing badly is not easy.

The second, promotion, is difficult as telling the subordinate of potential promotion is very likely to be interpreted as definite, with keen disappointment if it does not happen.

If there is something a manager feels they cannot communicate to a subordinate then that is probably a good enough reason to exclude it from the appraisal report.

2.  The Appraisal report should be finalised in the presence of the subordinate

    - All fair and above board.

3.  The subordinate should contribute a major part to the appraisal

    - Self-appraisal is particularly effective in two areas.

Attitudes In Relation To Performance:

First, the area of weak performance, most individuals will be surprisingly open and honest about themselves if the appraisal or counselling is a supportive relationship.

Analyse rather than criticise.

Secondly, the area of career progression; managers tend to see a subordinateís future in terms of the other people in the department and how, particularly, the managerís own progression developed.

Giving the subordinate the chance to talk may reveal totally different aspirations.

Emotion:

There is always an element of emotion in appraisal interviewing. Both manager and subordinate each have positive and negative feelings and appreciating what they are can help understanding.

The Manager:

Positive feelings: -

-  Wants to be helpful and understanding, but may be inclined to offer advice too closely related to their own experience. Needs to remember the subordinate is an individual in their own right.

-  Wants to be kind and tolerant and liked by their staff. However, they must be prepared to point out the realities of any situation.

Negative feelings: -

-  May be fearful of the interview itself and whether they may make a mess of it. These fears diminish with practice.

-   Fear of the interview becoming emotional and perhaps creating hostility in the subordinate. This is overcome by developing relationships where expression of feelings is normal.

-  May have feelings of envy i.e. the subordinateís youth, health, qualifications or career opportunities. It is essential to control them.

The Subordinate:

Positive Feelings: -

-  Wants to be liked by the boss. However they must not allow this to make them dependent and subservient.

-  Wants to be helped to improve.

Negative Feelings: -

The most likely one is fear of criticism of their work or their behaviour. Until the manager allays this fear, the interview will be meaningless and achieve nothing. Only the manager can allay this fear by establishing a counselling relationship, which shows they are fair and can be trusted. It is possible that a member of staff will perform at an acceptable level without motivation, but in many, indeed most cases their results will not reflect their true potential.

A good manager is always conscious of the need to motivate whenever an opportunity occurs. The assessment interview, properly planned, can be the most potent force for improvement.

Attitudes must be understood before motivation can take place:

We all have attitudes, towards work, politics, religion, fluoridation of water and so on. Those, which are the concern of management, are those, which are related to the job.

-  Are they positive, neutral or negative?

-  In what areas must we know what they think?

-  How can we find out what they think?

-  How can we influence their thinking?

If the manager knows their own attitudes and those of their staff, then they are better equipped to manage them.

People think in settled, standard ways, dictated by their attitudes, which form, as it were, the filter into their receptiveness. This can even determine what actually does come to their notice.

Some attitudes and beliefs cannot be changed, they are so deeply held, whilst others can fairly easily be changed provided open-mindedness is a strong attitude.

A personís standards will be directly related to their attitudes. If the standard is unacceptable to the manager then it must be changed.

In a group of sales people who have undergone the same selection process to meet the same job description, there will be a considerable overlap of attitudes, but it must not be assumed that each set is identical. People will have their own unique set of attitudes.

We must not fall into the trap of judging others by our own attitudes. e.g.

-  What would I do if I were them?

-  What would they do if they were me?

Basic attitudes in members of staff which need to be understood by the Manager are:

-  To the job.

-  To our products.

-  To their colleagues.

-  To the Company.

-  To their manager.

-  To their customers.

-  To training.

The manager must know what each individualís attitudes are before they can do anything about them, if indeed, anything needs to be done.

-  What do they say?
-  How do they say it?
-  What do they write-?
-  How do they express themselves?
-  What do they do?
-  How do they set about it?

The manager must be constantly on the alert, looking for inconsistencies which will help improve their understanding or provide new information. Chance remarks when off guard often give away the genuine attitude.

Questioning in the formal situation related to attitudes, may be unsuccessful, as the person will be on their guard and will tend to ďfeedĒ what they think the manager wants to know.

Where emotions are stimulated attitudes are more clearly displayed.

There is always an inter-relationship in a personís attitudes.

The managerís task is to strengthen desirable attitudes and minimise or eliminate the undesirable ones.

It must be remembered that people can succeed, despite some undesirable attitudes, because other stronger attitudes are dominant. After all it is results that count!

In Summary, The Steps In Successful Performance Appraisal:
  1. Review the case history in advance.
  2. Listen to the evidence.
  3. Discuss diagnosis.

         - Donít concentrate on character traits.      - Discuss things that can be improved.
  4. Face up to problem areas.
  5. Agree a plan of action.
  6. Write up a report of the interview.
  7. Progress that report.
  8. Never discuss a salary review at the appraisal interview.



The moral right of the author, Jonathan Farrington, has been asserted.All rights reserved.This publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system or otherwise, unless this notification of copyright is retained.

Jonathan Farrington is the Managing Partner of The jfa Group.

Since forming jfa in 1995 he has authored in excess of three hundred skills development programmes, including the Strategic Workshops series, Channel Programme and the Vanguard suite In addition, he has designed a range of unique and innovative process tools ≠ Optimus+ and ASP Profile and written extensively on organisational and sales team development. To find out more about the author or subscribe to his newsletter visit: www.jonathanfarrington.com










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