Performance Evaluations: Read First, Discuss Second

Oct 26 09:07 2007 Marnie E. Green Print This Article

When the employee has an opportunity to preview the evaluation meeting by reading the document, they are less likely to be shocked, defensive, or both.  You can increase employee participation by asking few simple questions and make the performance evaluation less painful.

The best way to ensure a painful performance evaluation is to leave the employee in the dark about their evaluation until the meeting begins.  The build up.  The inevitable surprise on the employee's face.  Chances are the encounter will be painful--for both the supervisor and the employee.

You know how this goes.  The employee comes into the office with a look of dread and fear.  The supervisor says,Guest Posting "have a seat" and begins to read from the evaluation document.  The supervisor uses phrases like, "I rated you a 3 for customer service" and "I gave you an overall rating of meets expectations." The employee sits and takes it--as if the evaluation is something that is being done TO them.  It creates a "you versus me" dynamic and it doesn't have to be that way.

Here's a simple solution: Give the employee a copy of the evaluation document prior to the meeting.  Ask the employee to read it and jot down any questions or thoughts they'd like to share in the meeting.  When the employee has an opportunity to preview the evaluation meeting by reading the document, they are less likely to be shocked, defensive, or both.

If you've given the employee a copy of the evaluation prior to the meeting, the first question you ask when the meeting begins is,

"Did you have a chance to read the evaluation?"

This seemingly simple question does a few things.

  1.  It helps you determine the employee's mood immediately.  If the employee is unhappy with the evaluation, you will know right up front and can address those issues first.  If you are doing all the talking, you really don't know what is going on in the employee's mind and usually the employee is thinking about so much that they are not listening to you ramble on about the evaluation anyway.
  2. It gets the employee to talk about their reaction to the evaluation. If you are doing all the talking for the majority of the meeting, you won't know what the employee is thinking. When you do stop to take a breath, the employee may hit you with anger and frustration but only with more force because the feelings have been building up like pressure in a steam engine.  This simple question lets the employee blow off steam right up front, and you, the supervisor, have the opportunity of knowing what you are dealing with.
  3. It puts the employee at ease because it is an easy question to answer and gives them a sense of control right off the bat.  When the employee gets to talk first, they are more likely to relax.

When you ask this simple question, "did you have a chance to read the evaluation?" you are likely to get one of two answers: yes or no.  If the employee responds with "no," tell the employee that the success of the meeting depends on their familiarity with the document.  Ask them to take a few minutes alone to read the evaluation and then you can resume the meeting.

If the employee responds with "yes," the logical follow-up question will be,

"What did you think of the evaluation?"

This opening question tells the employee that their perspective and input is important.  It signals to the employee that this conversation is going to be different than performance evaluation discussions of the past. 

A painless performance evaluation is one in which the employee participates in the conversation.  If you're not asking these open-ended questions right up front, the employee will not likely understand that you expect them to participate.  For the next performance evaluation you conduct, try something different.  Let the employee read the document first so that they can come prepared to fully participate.  You'll do less talking and the employee will likely feel much less pain.

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Marnie E. Green
Marnie E. Green

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:


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