Here are some Do's and Don’ts around performance reviews or other potentially stressful conversations for your team that you might find useful to use yourself or share with your team. It gives you a guide around your approach and tips to ensure that your staff feel they have had a fair and open conversation even if you are tackling a difficult subject.
1. Set the scene – explain the context of why you are having this conversation and, where appropriate, stress the positive nature of the potential outcome e.g., to identify potential improvements so work is less stressful, to provide support and training, to have a greater clarity around performance expectations, to continue growing the success of the team member and the business.
2. Explain what the process is going to be highlighting each step and the timescales involved.
3. Stress that you are looking for honest open feedback, and likewise that you will be as honest and as open as you can be, where appropriate, (without committing yourself to something that might change after the reviews or is dependent upon others also agreeing to it). Be comfortable in saying “I will come back to you by next week on this” or “that’s not possible at the moment but we can revisit it at our next review”
4. Explore every answer – identify the “so whats” – so what does that mean to you/to customers/to cost etc? so what would you like to happen? So, what do you think?
5. Check you have understood what they have said and what they mean – “so what you are saying is….”
6. Empathise – acknowledge and recognise frustrations, problems etc – “that must be very frustrating/time consuming…”
7. Summarise the meeting outcomes and follow up actions required. It ensures both parties have the same understanding of what has been discussed and agreed. It also clarifies each party’s expectations of what happens next.
8. Commit to firm dates for feedback, follow up etc and stick to them.
1. Make promises you can’t keep; however vague they may be. “I am sure that sometime in the future you will be Mary’s natural successor”. Mary may leave tomorrow, and a new far more qualified candidate might present themselves! You can identify it as a target but unless you can guarantee it…Vague promises are remembered and considered concrete “you said…”
2. Assume you know what they are going to say or what it means or cut them off or finish their sentences for them! You need to actively listen and give the space and time for staff to spell out exactly what they mean and feel so there is no ambiguity.
3. Change the meeting times/dates. It devalues the employee’s sense of worth if you keep moving the dates because “something more important has come up”. You are clearly telling them that they and the meeting are not important.
4. Try and bluff or tell little white lies – you will get found out! If you don’t know say so and confirm you will find out and share the answer within a reasonable timescale.
5. Blame the consultants/the boss/HR etc! This is your responsibility, and you need to own it. Otherwise, your staff member is going to doubt your capability to make things happen and will be thinking “well in which case I should be having this conversation with the boss/HR etc”