It’s that time of year again. It’s time to do the dreaded performance reviews. As a manager, conducting performance reviews with your poor performers may be one of your most stressful duties. Sitting down face-to-face and discussing a year of mishaps, miscues, and mistakes is not enjoyable, but it has to be done.
Before looking at a quick and easy way to organize and present the performance data, let’s review some general points to keep in mind when having the performance conversation:
Separate emotion from business: I’m not suggesting that you come across like a cold-hearted stone, but staying focused on the employee’s performance and the business impact is the key. Do your best to keep on track instead of letting the employee steer the conversation into tragic stories about Aunt Gladys, broken-down vehicles, and other personal issues. Showing compassion is always good, and suggested when appropriate, but backbone is also necessary here. Keep in mind that you’re not attacking the employee personally and make sure that you don’t come across as if you are.
We can talk about how to handle personal issues and performance another time.
Be straightforward and honest: Don’t sugarcoat or minimize what you have to say. The performance is what it is. There’s no need for you to feel guilty about it. Also, don’t send mixed messages. If there is a substantial amount of negative feedback to provide, your written comments on the appraisal and final rating should be consistent with the conversation.
Now that you have your mindset ready for the conversation, try using the STAR method to organize and present your data. The STAR method is typically used in behavioral interviewing, but it can also work well in providing feedback in performance reviews as well. STAR stands for situation, task, action, result.
Situation – describe the specific situation in which the employee did not meet expectations. Dates and other specific details are important so that s/he remembers.
Task – describe what your specific expectation was for the employee in that situation. Hopefully you had already outlined expectations beforehand.
Action –describe what the employee actually did in that situation.
Result –describe the outcome of the actions that the employee took. Explain why the actions and outcome did not meet expectations. You should also explain the business impact of not meeting expectations.
Make sure that you clearly communicate expectations moving forward and offer whatever support will help the employee.
These conversations are not easy, but applying these suggestions should help you through it.
Next time we’ll discuss why individual contributors should not dread the performance review either.