Performance Management
Hold Performance Discussions

Prepare for the discussion | Conduct the discussion

The Performance Review Discussion is one of the most important things that you as a supervisor will do. This is a time to continue that all important feedback about duties, expectations and performance. This is a time to have a more formalized discussion about the employee's performance and it should reflect the day to day coaching that has transpired throughout the year. It should be undertaken with great care and preparation, and the way you handle it can have significant impact on the morale and future performance of your staff members. Formal performance discussions should be held at least once a year. Coaching should occur on a frequent basis. Informal performance discussions are also valuable and should be held at intervals throughout the year.

Prepare for the discussion

  1. Establish date, time and suitable private location.
  2. Notify employee, well in advance, of the date, time, location and what to prepare.
  3. Provide the employee with questions to help prepare for the discussion.  

    1. Do you meet, exceed or fall below the performance standards on each major duty? Be prepared to give examples.
    2. Do you have questions about your job such as priorities, the purpose of particular activities, goals for the future?
    3. What barriers affect the performance of your job?
    4. How do you spend the majority of your time? Is this the best use of your time?
    5. Are you doing anything that doesn't seem to add value? What would be the impact if eliminated?
    6. Is there anything that you think you should be doing that you are not?
    7. Are there any processes that you work with that should be changed to provide better customer service, eliminate waste or make work easier?
    8. How can I, as your supervisor, better help you to succeed?
  4. Review responsibilities and expectations. Compare actual performance to the performance standards. Questions to ask yourself:
    1. Am I looking at performance over the entire evaluation period?
    2. What performance standards were not met? List specific examples. What can do done to improve performance?
    3. What factors may have affected performance? What factors may have been beyond the employee's control?   
    4. Were expectations reasonable? Attainable?
    5. What performance expectations were met? Exceeded? List specific examples.
    6. How have I formed my opinions about the employee's performance? Have I been fair and objective?

Conduct the discussion

  1. Set the stage.
    1. Establish importance by holding in a private setting with no interruptions.
    2. Provide a relaxed format.
    3. Have all material at hand.
    4. Establish rapport immediately
    5. Clearly explain the purpose and format of the discussion.
  2. Start on a positive note. Set the tone as one of communication and feedback, not one of judgment and critical evaluation.
  3. Discuss responsibilities and standards, clarify expectations and compare actual performance to performance standards.   Use documentation to discuss specific instances of performance.
  4. Be sure to give credit for achievement and work done well. Give specific examples and mention resulting benefit to the organization.
  5. Focus on important job dimensions. Don't deal with minor infractions of little significance. Discuss them at the time they occur and then forget them, unless you see a trend developing.
  6. Apply effective communication skills.
    1. Encourage the employee to talk. Ask open-ended questions. Ask for the employee's assessment, comments and suggestions.
    2. Use your listening skills and don't interrupt. Check for understanding.
    3. Avoid emotionally loaded expressions, such as, "You always..." and "You never ..."
  7. Focus on performance, not personality. Describe employee behaviors, not personality traits or attitudes. Constructive feedback focuses on specific action, never on the individual. Discuss positive as well as unsatisfactory performance. Provide specific examples and explain why these behaviors are problematic or how they benefit the organization.
  8. Minimize your role as a judge. Work for a collaborative environment.
  9. Never compare one employee with another.
  10. Check for presence of barrier or constraints to performance.
  11. Work for understanding, rather than complete agreement. Be supportive. Ask what you can do to be of greater help.   Emphasis should be on improvement and learning for the future rather than criticism of the past.
  12. There should be no surprises. Poor performance should have been addressed when it happened. If performance has not improved, discuss it again and develop an action plan. The Performance Review Discussion is not the place to mention it for the first time. If poor performance is significant, a Performance Improvement Plan should be considered.
  13. Avoid common rating errors in forming your opinion of performance.
  14. Receive feedback in a constructive manner.
    1. Listen carefully and seek to understand what is being said. Don't interrupt.
    2. Ask questions – get more information. Ask for examples.
    3. Liberally use the phrase, "Tell me more."
    4. Try not to get defensive.   Behaviors that hinder one from effectively receiving feedback are:
      1. Justifying
      2. Building a case
      3. Denial
    5. Don't take it personally.   Be open-minded—there may be a better way.
    6. Admit mistakes. Don't try to fix blame on someone or something else.
    7. Thank the employee.
  15. Review the major job duties and performance standards to determine if changes need to be made for next year. Make any necessary changes.
  16. End the Performance Review Discussion on a positive note.