The Appraiser & the Appraisee

It is performance review time in most organisations.  The year is over and the appraiser has to review the performance of the appraisee. In most organisations, the appraiser is expected to have a pre-appraisal dialogue before she appraises her reportee to understand how the year has gone and what went well and what could have been done better.  Many appraisers do not take this step seriously and even give it a slip. In this step, the employee is expected to speak and the manager listen.

The appraisee fills in the form and based on the understanding of the same, the appraiser assesses the employee.  This then becomes a one sided appraisal as the manager has not been able to return to the other side of the story.  It may be said that principle of natural justice, wherein you give a chance to defend yourself before being judged has not been followed.

In the next step, the manager assesses the performance of the employee and fills in her comments and feedback to the employee.  This could possible be discussed in an appraisal group and then it is time for the manager to give feedback to her employee.  The manager is expected to fix a date and time and preferably do a face to face feedback session.  Most managers do it casually and in an informal setting like a canteen over a cup of tea.  I recently met a manager, who stated that his boss met him for breakfast and gave him feedback in exactly five minutes.  This negates the very purpose of a feedback session. In this step, the manager is expected to speak and the employee listen.  The manager is expected to give feedback with real life examples of what went right and what could have been done better.

The appraisal is expected to be complete, when the manager sits with the employee and agrees on the targets for the next year and also the development actions.  This enables the employee to focus on key areas during the next year and also helps the employee to take ownership of his development.  This could be reviewed periodically with at least one review every six months.

The real conflict arises when the appraiser and the appraisee have opposing view points on the performance of the appraisee.  This conflict could be resolved by asking for clear examples of high and low performance.  It can also be substantiated by feedback from peers and internal or external customers.  This may help the employee to get a realistic feedback and also take necessary steps for the next year to improve.

In most organisations, performance appraisal becomes a ritual and not so liked phenomenon.  This is mainly because managers are not trained and do not possess the necessary skills to listen, appraise and give feedback.  Both the appraiser and the appraisee dread this process and want to get over it more to tick a box then to celebrate the process.

As in the photo above, two way communication is critical for a successful appraisal dialogue. Listening more than speaking by the manager may facilitate a rich conversation.

One can make a performance management process rich in content and delivery by honing the skills of the employee and the manager.  Each has a distinct role and has to play it effectively to ensure overall development of the employee.  The real test of a good performance dialogue could be if it is inspirational or perspirational. The day the performance dialogue becomes inspirational, we have achieved the end as much as the means to the end.

S Ramesh Shankar
December 2016

Talk or Listen !

It is performance review time in some organisations.  Some employees have asked me the difference between a pre-appraisal dialogue between the employee and the manager and a post appraisal feedback session.

If I have to put it simply, in the pre-dialogue, the employee should talk and the manager listen.  In the feedback session, the manager should talk and the employee listen.  One of our biggest challenges as human beings is our ability to listen.  We have always been poor listeners and have enough feedback from family, friends and colleagues that we could improve on our listening skills.  But, as manager or employee, we continue to be poor listeners.

Let me try to simplify the role of the manger and the employee in a pre-dialogue session first :

– The employee talks and the manager listens ( most of the time and not the other way around)

– The employee should highlight his performance with facts and figures against the goals set for him for the previous year and his contributions/ impact.

– The Manager could ask for clarifications, if any

– The employee shares development needs and career aspirations

– The employee explains his strengths and improvement areas with behavioural examples

– The employee also seeks job rotation or other developmental opportunities.

Now, let’s understand what is the role of the manager and employee in the post appraisal feedback session :

– The manager talks and the employee listens ( most of the time and not the other way around)

– The manager explains her assessment both in terms of ‘what'(tasks) and ‘how'( behaviour) with examples observed

– The employee could ask for clarifications

– The manager should explain the strengths and improvement areas of the employee with examples

– The manager should explain the performance rating and the basis for the same with examples

– The manager should enable the employee to look forward to the next year and agree on targets and development plans

In real life situations, the roles generally tend to reverse.  Many managers tend to give feedback during the pre-dialogue process itself.  Further, they talk more than they listen.  They do not encourage employees to give their point of view.  They  find it difficult to create an environment, where the employee opens up and shares accomplishments, development needs and career aspirations.

Similarly, in the feedback process, it become more a monologue.  While, at this stage the manger is expected to talk and the employee listen, it becomes a one way communication.  Managers do talk but again do not encourage employees to listen and own the feedback.  At the end of the feedback session, the employee should feel motivated to look forward to the next year both in terms of challenges on the job and their own development and growth.

We have to make this dialogue ( not monologue) more inspirational than perspirational.  Many employees are nervous to get into a pre dialogue or a feedback session.  It is almost like the board exams at the secondary school level. How can we make it like a game to play together ?   Employees should look forward to it and play the game.  If they are inspired, they will build their skills and give their best. Managers should be like the coach encouraging her team members to play to win.

Let employees aspire and mangers inspire.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar