9 ways to handle negative performance reviews News added by Benefits Pro on February 7, 2014
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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Dan Cook

Ah, the job performance review. With our top performers, we look forward to lavishing praise and hope that it will be returned from our cubicled all-stars. With the bottom-feeders, it’s all about the exit strategy. And with those in the middle, we want to enumerate their strengths and weaknesses with the goal of moving them up a notch or two.

Whatever their level of performance, they’re all getting feedback. And though we may be more wary with how we phrase and deliver it to the lower rungs, a negative response can come out of the blue even from the top producers.

Fortunately, one can prepare ahead of time so that a negative response to feedback can be handled to limit the fallout.

David Lee, founder and principal of HumanNature@work, and an authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, has nine tips that will help navigate these potentially troubled shoals.

1. Invite them to speak. If you get the feeling that they don’t agree with your feedback or appear to be getting upset, but they’re not saying anything, invite them to talk. Example: “Claire, I get the feeling that you disagree with what I’m saying. Can you tell me what you’re thinking?”

2. Ask questions that aren’t rhetorical. Don’t simply amp up your argument and try to convince them through brute force. Ask them questions; find out why they perceive the situation the way they do. Example: “So, you feel like you’re handling the account as well as possible. Can you say more about that?”

3. Give them time to vent. If they’re really emotional, they won’t be able to take in what you’re saying or think rationally until they get to tell their story. Venting clears their mind so they can listen to you and respond thoughtfully.

4. Paraphrase your understanding of what you understand their perception to be. Do this so they know you “get it, ” or if you discover that you didn’t “get it,” they can help you understand what they were saying. Examples: “Cal, I want to make sure I get your take on this … you feel my take on this whole initiative thing we’ve been talking about is wrong … you feel like you do show initiative, do next steps without having to be told, go the extra mile, etc …”

5. Acknowledge their position or point of view. Examples: “I know you see it very differently.” If, after discussing the situation, they still disagree with your perception, try a different tact. “I know there probably isn’t anything I can say at this point that will change your mind.”
6. Acknowledge the unpleasant task of hearing negative feedback. No one likes to receive negative feedback or to be subjected to an evaluation they disagree with. They need to know that you understand this. Be sure to use a “we’re equals” tone of voice and not a patronizing, superior tone of voice. Example: “For what it’s worth Terry, I know it’s a drag to get negative feedback from your new supervisor when your former one gave you the impression that everything was great.”

7. Take accountability for your responsibility to review performance. Remind them, using a conversational tone — and not in a preachy or “I am the boss” way — that you are accountable to your employer for setting standards and deciding whether they are achieving them, just as they would be if they were your supervisor. Include the reality that, while they have a right to disagree with your perception, they still need to meet your expectations.

8. Put them in your shoes. For issues that relate to interactions with others, involve them in detective work to see if they observe what you’re noticing. Ask them to see if they notice what you said is happening. Let them know that you would be interested in hearing about what they observed. Example: “It seems like we’re at a place where we see things quite differently. I see you as needing to contribute in team meetings in a more positive way rather than making sarcastic remarks about people’s ideas and the other things we talked about, and you’re feeling like you already do contribute in a positive way. Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do: how about if you pay attention to how you interact in our meetings for the next few months and notice whether what you say helps others or puts them down?”

9. Keep an open mind. Demonstrate good will by keeping an open mind, and letting them know you will, especially if the other person has brought up some valid points that put your perspective in a new light or, if there is room for doubt for whatever reason. Example: “You know Jim, although I was pretty clear coming in here about how I saw this situation, you brought up some valid points, so let’s both of us keep a closer eye on this. I’d like to ask you to especially pay attention to _____ and I’ll do my part to notice when you’re right on track and give you immediate feedback if I see an example of what I was talking about. How’s that sound?”

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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