Performance review session: Nick was relieved after his performance review from Warren because Nick did not seem to be penalized to any great degree for the servers going down while he was on duty. However, the performance review was extremely vague and undefined. It is unclear what a ‘three’ means in terms of a rating. Nick was told he was doing a ‘fine’ (i.e., acceptable) job but was not given any specific information about how to improve his performance. Warren was also extremely casual and informal (making comments about Nick’s appearance and jokes) which destroyed the necessary subordinate-manager distance required for an effective review process. It made the review seem more personal and subjective. If the review had been negative, Nick may have been offended and complained about Warren’s objectivity.
Q1b. When a performance review is given to a subordinate with whom you have a good personal relationship it is essential to bracket the review as a ‘business’ versus a ‘personal’ interaction so the person does not become offended by the advice and input given in the review.
Q1c. I think the statement is an excellent summary of how to approach the performance review of someone with whom you are close friends. On one hand, merely giving vague and uncritical commentary will be frustrating and if the person gets a negative rating in the next session, he will be angry he was offered no input about how to change his behavior. Constructive criticism is always helpful. However, it is also important to point out what the employee is doing right as well as what he or she is doing wrong. Friendship should not make the review more or less negative: it should be professional and objective.
Q1d. Nick got very little from the performance review: he does not really know what he is doing right or wrong. Although it can be very difficult, emotionally speaking, for some managers to bring up negative issues, from the employee’s perspective it is better to receive some criticism in the present than to be fired in the future. Also, Nick did not receive any specific praise for what he was doing right. Warren gave the impression of being unprepared and therefore very uninterested in Nick’s career rather than complementary.
Q2a. Status reports: Having a variety of weekly leaders turn in status reports can be frustrating, given that it is not unusual for leaders to give wildly different evaluations, depending upon their subjective impressions. If an employee receives a status report which reads he or she needs to work on, say, his or her ability to work well on a team and the other report says that he or she needs to be more independent and a self-starter, it can be difficult to reconcile these various notions. It is better if leaders can come to a consensus on a single status report.
Of course, there will always be discrepancies in the viewpoints of different leaders. However, disagreements can always be ‘bracketed’ in the report and highlighted rather than presented in a confusing fashion. For example, the consensus report might read: “some members believed you had difficulty compromising with your team members; however, others noted that when prompted you did not offer your own suggestions when you disagreed with them about how to move forward. Try to work on being more specific in your suggestions and being more respectful of other’s feelings.” This criticism gives the reader specific information about what to work on and to understand what he needs to change regarding working well as part of a team as well as working independently.
Q1b. The most effective approach to providing feedback is through a rather than an impersonal, ‘check the box’ type of written questionnaire. This enables the employee to ask questions and to clarify criticism. Seeing criticism written on the page can be depressing and disturbing if it is negative. It is unhelpful to see that the employee received, for example a ‘3’ in terms of his attitude, because it is unclear what ‘attitude’ means and how to improve it. Also, both reviewers and employees may view the rating system in very different terms. One reviewer may give hardly any ‘excellent’ ratings while other reviews may view anything less than a rating of excellence as an underhanded way of saying the employee did a poor job. Employees may similarly not understand if ‘good’ is a genuinely ‘good’ rating. This is why one-on-one interviews are necessary.
Q2c. Honesty is essential otherwise status reports will not be taken seriously. If the reports are vague and general, employees will and caring. However, this does not mean that status reports should be unnecessarily harsh. Rather, they should be balanced between what the employee needs to work on and what the employee is doing well. It is also true that people respond to criticism differently. Some people become very resistant or depressed by detailed criticism and criticism must be given a positive spin. Very to know how to improve their behaviors to get ahead in the organization; in harmony want to know how their behavior affects others.
Q2d. I agree that regardless of how the performance review process is conducted, it should not be done in the ‘heat of the moment.’ Very few good decisions are made in a split-second fashion. Also, it is essential that the other party have the ability to give candid feedback as to whether he believes the comments were fair or unfair. Taking a breath before responding to any charge is always a good policy. As well as teaching managers what kinds of feedback are important, an organization should also orient them in how to give feedback. It is not just what is said but how it is said that is important.