It’s Monday morning and you’ve just slunk into your seat, booted your PC, and opened your inbox, only to find the dreaded invite from your boss for your annual performance review. You know the feeling. If you’re like many people, that feeling is one of stress and worry.
Traditional performance appraisals can cause anxiety and tension in the office, even among staff members who had a particularly good year. “But performance reviews conducted by a direct superior are beneficial to the recipient and the company as a whole making that anxiety worthwhile in the end,” is a common case made by some senior managers. However, a leading Canadian think-tank, The Conference Board of Canada, found that 46% of organizations rate their performance management system as only “somewhat effective.”
Is all that induced stress a good trade-off for only somewhat effective results? Probably not. That’s why the performance review systems of many companies need some fine-tuning or even a complete overhaul. Here are a few tips to help businesses reduce review- and appraisal-related stress, and improve the effectiveness of their system.
Provide regular feedback
Managers should be providing feedback on a routine basis throughout the year and not just at performance appraisal time. Regular informal feedback – if comprised of a healthy mix of positive and negative assessments – is valued by employees and is preferred over being left in the dark for 11 months of the year. Come performance appraisal time, employees will feel more relaxed as they already have a sense of what’s to come and are less likely to be blindsided by a negative evaluation.
Ensure that employees have a comprehensive understanding of what is expected of them before, during, and after the performance appraisal. Is there paperwork that needs to be completed? If so, what will it be used for? Are there actionable items that the employee can take away from the feedback session? Take the time to inform employees about the process in a clear manner and answer any questions they might have.
Create a two-way dialogue
Performance appraisals shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. Give employees the chance to discuss how they feel about their results and to ask questions. Find out if they have any input into how management can help them improve their performance (additional training, frequent feedback, etc.). When employees are denied a voice, job satisfaction suffers.
This point might seem obvious, but many managers are guilty of subjective appraising and they’re usually unaware of it. Companies need to build performance systems that are less susceptible to rater bias. That means benchmarking, having managers journal observable milestones of staff members throughout the year, and possibly implementing a 360-degree feedback system.
“When managers do not follow stated policies and procedures – when they don’t practice what is preached in the organization – the visible contradiction generates disappointment, distrust, and cynicism among their subordinates,” explains Regent University professors Gary Roberts and Michael Pregitzer. “It reduces the employee motivation and organizational citizenship behaviors that contribute to vibrant, productive, and healthy work environments.” That’s why companies need to lead by example from the top down. If management practices what it preaches, occurrences of hypocrisy during performance review are reduced.