Performance Appraisals for Difficult Employees – Part II

We talked in Part I about preparing for the performance appraisal meeting.  In Part II, let’s look at a couple of strategies you might consider for the actual meeting.

It’s hard not to think in some situations that the performance appraisal review with a difficult employee won’t deteriorate to a confrontation.  If the employee weren’t having or displaying problem behaviors there wouldn’t be a need to prepare for a difficult meeting, right?  Even though you prepare for a confrontation, your tone of voice and body language need to be as neutral as possible. If you go into the meeting loaded for bear that message will come through clearly and nothing will be accomplished.  Before the meeting take a couple of moments to take a deep breath and calm yourself.  It really does work.

When the meeting begins, clearly state the purpose of the meeting. This is a performance appraisal meeting and it is about the employee, not about you. Also remember that this is not a negotiation meeting.  As the supervisor you have observed good things and areas where improvements could be made. Start out with a positive comment, if possible. For example, if the employee has shown improvement in an area that was discussed during the last review period, make note of that.

In as even a tone of voice as possible, describe the areas where improvements are needed. Again, if progress has been made, reiterate that. But if there are areas which were brought to the employee’s attention and which did not show improvement during the recent review period that needs to be discussed.  Keep your focus on the facts. Whenever possible, give specifics as to dates and times when tasks were not completed or submitted late.  Detail the problems areas with as much specificity as possible.  You’re never going to be voted as supervisor of the year but you’ll  have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done the best job you can under difficult circumstances.

End the discussion of the performance on as positive a note as possible. Compliment a positive skill. Next, set an interim review date to monitor the progress. Work with the employee to set a time that will allow the employee to make the required changes in performance and to establish a positive track record.

Performance Appraisals for Difficult Employees – Part I

There may be nothing more a supervisor dreads that having to do a performance appraisal for a difficult employee. You can’t stick your head in the sand, that’s for sure.  But there are some key actions you may consider taking to prepare for the meeting.

The most important thing to remember in dealing with any employee, difficult or not, is that as the supervisor you must focus on the issue or the behavior. Be sure that you’ve taken notes during the review period to recall good job performances and problem issues. If meetings were held to discuss the issues, use your notes to discuss performance issues. Those notes should include the date and time of the meeting, who was present and what was discussed.  If memos were sent to the employee addressing a specific issue, have a copy of those memos available during the review meeting.

Call the meeting for a time that will allow both you and the employee to engage in conversation without distractions. If you can’t get away from the telephone or interruptions in your office, move the meeting to a neutral location such as a conference room. The key here is to insure that both you and the employee can devote full attention to the performance appraisal without having an audience.

Provide a copy of the written performance appraisal to the employee in time to allow the employee to review it before the meeting. Remember when writing the review that your focus must be on specific issues or behaviors. For example, if the employee’s job requires the production of reports within a specific time period, make sure you’ve checked the disclosure rate to determine whether the employee has met the standard. Check the submission dates and times and note the number which were on time and the number which were late.

Stay tuned for Part II – Holding the actual meeting.