Ten appraisal pitfalls

An appraisal

Elspeth Watt, director of Calibre HR & Training (www.calibrehr.com), highlights what to avoid if you want your appraisals to make a difference

Being unprepared

Few managers enjoy appraisals and many fail to prepare. But not planning what you might say results in a paper operation with little value to anyone. The appraisal review should be the culmination of informal meetings with staff members over the year and you need minutes from those to get the most out of it.

Choosing the wrong place

Modern meeting rooms are often not soundproof and can be like goldfish bowls. If you have difficult messages to get across, you need a private and confidential space. You also need a business setting – not the pub or coffee shop.

Not covering the ground

Inexperienced managers can try to be too nice and fail to cover areas of concern for fear of opening up old issues. Planning the meeting and making notes on problematic areas beforehand will ensure you tackle issues in a positive way and appropriate to the objectives of the appraisal process.

Rushing the meeting

Clockwatching will not relax either of you sufficiently to have a thoughtful review of the previous year or an objective discussion of objectives for the coming one. Don’t book appraisal meetings with your team back to back and don’t book too many on one day.

Being taken by surprise

The appraisal meeting is not the place for unexpected news. Rather it should be the culmination of discussions throughout the year. If you do hear something unexpected, you’ve not been communicating effectively or encouraging staff to share issues with you on an ongoing basis.

Cancelling or postponing

Delaying appraisals gives the impression you do not take the process seriously. If staff members are to value the appraisal system you need to demonstrate you do too.

Allowing interruptions

Interruptions damage the flow of the meeting and will destroy the staff member’s confidence in your commitment to the process. As well as turning off phones and putting up a do not disturb note, ensure the employee has their back to any windows or glass doors so they will not be distracted by anyone outside. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted either.

Not listening or asking the right questions

A lack of questioning and listening skills and the wrong body language can all hinder the appraisal meeting. It’s not the same as an interview, so make sure you have the right training and approach it in the right way. You need to be familiar with the paperwork so you can give the conversation sufficient attention.

Laying blame

Appraisals should be motivational and give the employee something to work for in the year ahead, not simply a negative rerun of past performance problems or the allocation of blame. Such issues should be dealt with under your managing poor performance or disciplinary policies.

When managers put away the “blaming stick” in appraisals and move to a cooperative, dialogue approach, the whole process can become more comfortable and effective. Because, it puts the manager and employee on the same side, and working towards the same goals, getting better and better.

Sure, we do use appraisals for a number of reasons but if we are going to get real value out of the time and energy we put into them, we have to look at the process in a more constructive way. And, bottom line, that’s making performance better.

Robert Bacal, impactfactory.com

Expecting too much

Often managers and staff expect too much from the appraisal scheme too soon. A good scheme takes time to be established. On its own it will not make communications better or help people to work together more efficiently (or even boost profits). However, it can be an important peg in enabling all these things as long as you give it sufficient time and commitment.

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