The Best Surprise Is No Surprise - Performance Management and Appraisals

Published on 12 May 2015 at 3:48 pm #assertivenesstraining #conflictmanagement #impactfactory #leadershipskills #projectmanagement

Remember that tag line for the Holiday Inn a few years back? The Best Surprise Is No Surprise?

Well, we pinched it and use it to describe what we think a great appraisal process should be: no surprises.

That means that Performance Management has to be handled with care, empathy, respect and most importantly of all, day-to-day.

Too many times people tell us what horrible appraisals they've had. A common theme is when their manager presents them with something that happened a few months back that the appraisee hadn't realised was a problem. In other cases, the manager has a long list of things that should have been done or could have been done better.

In every situation, it was only during the formal appraisal setting that the catalogue of errors was introduced. Sadly, this happens a lot.

In a great appraisal nothing should come as a shock or surprise; appraisals should be a summary of the year or six month's work of the appraisee and not an opportunity to dump on the appraisee things that haven't gone so well all in one go.

That's what Performance Management is for - to deal with issues as they arise, not months down the road when the details may get lost or muddled but right then, in the moment. Yet this is when a lot of managers miss fantastic chances to get more from their staff.

When a problem or issue is spotted and dealt with right away, first, it gets the issue out in the open so that relevant solutions can be discussed; second, it short-circuits the possibility of festering resentments where the manager somehow thinks his/her staff member is deliberately doing something wrong and that they should know better.

It's all common sense isn't it? You see a mistake, you take the person aside to discuss it and give them support and keep a 'light' eye on things till you feel confident that they're meeting your expectations.

So why doesn't it happen like that so much of the time? Why are appraisals filled with 'surprises' and shocks?

This is the nub of the matter. Many managers simply don't like having uncomfortable conversations, they hope the problem will fix itself without their intervention, they're afraid of other people's emotions, so they don't do it. Then within the more formal setting of an annual appraisal they can hide behind the process.

We heard of one situation where a manager was upset because one of his staff was taking longer lunch hours than the agreed time. Every time the employee came back 'late' from lunch, the manager's resentment grew. He groused to other people, including colleagues of Mr Latelunch; he kept a log of every time Mr Latelunch was late, even by a couple of minutes; he began to obsess about it and assumed Mr Latelunch was doing it on purpose. Finally, he presented his 'evidence' to HR for them to sort nearly one year down the line.

What did he never do? He never spoke to Mr Latelunch about it; he never even casually mentioned that he needed to keep an eye on his timekeeping.

Something simple became huge in the manager's mind and of course once it was escalated to HR it became even more huge. HR was annoyed with the manager for not dealing with it earlier and even more annoyed that it had been dumped on them.

And that was why we were brought in when they were creating a new appraisal process; they didn't want it undermined from the beginning if the managers didn't have the skills to deal with the day-to-day.

Repeat our mantra when it comes to Appraisals - The Best Surprise is No Surprise!

Check out Impact Factory's range of Performance Management and Appraisal Training, Assertiveness and Conflict Management courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory