No one likes to hear negative feedback during their performance review. The discussions between worker and supervisor can be ripe for hurt feelings, arguments and blame.
“The way employees are assessed is one of the biggest unnecessary stress factors,” said Andrew Faas, and author of From Bully to Bull’s Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire (RCG Press, 2017). “Subjectivity, ambiguity, biases and the ability to manipulate the performance management system has created a loathing ” of such reviews.
Long before face-to-face reviews happens, managers need training on how to conduct them, said Catherine Mattice Zundel, SHRM-SCP, a consultant with Civility Partners in La Mesa, Calif.
“Performance management is one place a lot of organizations fail miserably,” she said. “So many organizations never train managers on how to ‘do’ performance management. Every single manager out there should know how to prepare themselves for workers who react angrily, because they should’ve gone through a refresher training before they had the conversation. If you’re not offering a refresher training on performance evaluations, do.”
As part of that training, Alicea suggested asking supervisors to write down a list of reasons to help their employees understand why they received their rating. Remind supervisors to give employees suggestions to make improvements and to refer employees who feel that personal issues are keeping them from accomplishing their goals to HR.
Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychiatrist and expert witness in employment cases, said it’s always a good idea to first give an employee her performance review in writing.
“Let them address, in writing, what they disagree with, then the manager and employee can meet to discuss their differences of opinion, after each one has had time to think about it and cool down,” she said.
Before the reviews, the HR department can remind supervisors and subordinates of some ground rules, Mattice Zundel said.
“This is our livelihood and who we are, so of course we’re emotional when someone tells us we aren’t meeting expectations,” she said. “HR can suggest to employees—well before evaluations are scheduled—to keep emotions in check. This is a tall order. This is work. But employees who want to be heard must stick to the facts when they disagree. Keep it factual, unemotional, and focused on you.”
Coach workers on how to react positively to what they perceive to be negative feedback, Alicea added.
HR managers should coach workers to turn negative feedback “into a positive or [take steps] to rectify the issue—without blaming others.” If you a personal issue is interfering with someone’s work, HR should encourage a discussion “to see if resources like an employee assistance program may be available to help relieve stress or address setbacks.”