Friday, September 26, 2008

Performance Reviews: Giving Them, Getting Them

I just read an article of that title, which motivated me to write one myself.

Most people dislike giving and getting performance reviews, yet they can be invaluable. I believe these are the keys to making the most of them: 

When Getting a Performance Review
1. Be prepared. Ideally ongoing, you should keep a file or all your accomplishments and praise you've received. Whether you're aiming for a raise or just to avoid the axe, that goodie file can be invaluable. Bring a printout to your performance review or email it to your boss in advance.

2. Before entering the room, remind yourself that if you follow the advice below, a performance review can really help you.

3. Encourage candor. Some bosses won't give negative feedback for fear of demotivating you. It's in your interest to get the straight scoop: it will help you grow or at least help you learn what you need to improve in to avoid getting fired. 

So to encourage candor, at the beginning of the meeting, say something like, "I've been looking forward to this, sure, to hear the good things so I can continue or build on those, but also to hear the areas for growth because I really want to be as good as I can be." 

4. When receiving negative feedback, it's usually wise to not disagree on the spot. If you can't simply say, "Good point. I'll really work on that," say in a pleasant or at least not-defensive tone, "I appreciate your candor and want to take some time to reflect on it." That avoids the boss thinking that your not objecting is tacit agreement with the criticism. Certainly, however, ask follow-up questions so you fully understand the boss's real concern.

5. If you're unhappy with some or all of the performance review, end by reiterating that you'd like a little time to reflect and would appreciate  a follow-up meeting in a few days. 

6. When you get home that day, review your notes and take an honest look at yourself: What can you do to build on your strengths? Is he correct about your weaknesses? Not sure? Ask a trusted colleague.

When Giving a Performance Review
1. Be honest. You're dealing with your supervisee's life here. He at least deserves the straight scoop so he can work to improve. Or if a weakness is unlikely to improve, perhaps you can readjust the job description to be a better accommodate him or if necessary, let him know he needs to look for another job that is a better fit.

2. Start with the positive. That will make the evaluee more open to suggestions for improvement.

3. Always give suggestions for improvement. We all need to grow. Be as constructive as possible, for example, rather than say, "You speak in a monotone," say, "I believe you can be more effective in meetings if you say every sentence as though you were a concert pianist: varying loudness, pace, emphasis. "

4. If the supervisee gets defensive, that's the cue for you to get as calm as possible. Let the person spew and only when finished say something like, "I understand how you feel. Take a couple of days to reflect and perhaps check out my perception with a colleague or two, and then let's set up a time to talk again. Whaddya say?"

I am aware that following such advice is easier said than done. Performance evaluations are stressful for all concerned, but having a game plan going in will help you do better. 


Dave said...

Do professors give doctoral students pre-performance reviews on dissertation defense? Do you think this is a good idea?

Marty Nemko said...

I've not heard of this being done, but it sure sounds like a good idea.

Dave said...

I'll bring up the idea with my supervisor on Monday. I'll also give him a copy of your blog post. But as you said, my supervisor might be afraid to give me any negative feedback, thinking it will demotivate me. We'll see...

Thanks again.