Overcoming negative feelings about appraisals

Does your heart sink when you’re faced with refreshing appraisals and performance conversations?  When you survey the attitude to performance management, do you think ‘I wish I didn’t have to start from here’?

What can you do to re-engage your colleagues with the power for great performance conversations, if most of their past experience has been pretty negative?

It’s a challenge that I hear from many HR and OD teams.  So here are some thoughts that can help overcome those negative feelings:

Focus on feedback – though your colleagues may refuse to accept they have ever had a valuable formal appraisal, most people will remember some moments when they received valuable feedback.  Try starting with a focus on giving and receiving meaningful feedback (not criticism or praise).

Have an adult-adult conversation – appraisals are often perceived as the manager delivering judgement on a colleague – often a parent-child type of relationship.  Try re-framing the conversation as an adult-adult relationship about what is working well and where different approaches or results are needed.

Keep conversations simple – if your formal appraisal conversations are quite complex, requiring discussion of past performance, career options, development needs and future goals, make them simpler.  Split the content across several conversations.

Create a learning experience – consider appraisals as a learning experience for both manager and their colleague:  what can we learn from the past to make a difference to the future?’  Creating a learning experience does not mean tough performance messages are watered down.  Remember that being willing to learn from experience is one of the five behaviour factors of high performance in a role.

Experience a performance conversation – offer all colleagues the chance to experience an effective performance conversation.  This means that all employees, not just managers, will need access to a learning event that explores how they can.  We use Forum Theatre to achieve great results, and you can read more about that elsewhere in the newsletter.

In summary, if you feel like you are embarking on a long journey ahead to overcome negative views about appraisals, you can start by:

  • Focusing on feedback
  • Moving away from parent-child towards adult-adult conversations
  • Keeping conversations simple
  • Creating a learning experience
  • Giving colleagues an opportunity to experience how a valuable performance conversation works

And finally, performance management is a journey not a destination, so don’t put pressure on yourself to deliver transformation overnight.