June 9, 2008
Minimizing the Annual Review Fear Factor
It's annual review time here. We operate on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, so this is the time each employee gets a performance review for the year. There's always a certain amount of trepidation in anticipation of such a review--both for the employee and the supervisor. One of the best ways, I think, to minimize this on both sides is to make sure there are no surprises.
An employee should not hear about a problem or area of poor performance for the first time at an annual review. Supervisors doing their job should be giving continual feedback to employees throughout the year either at regularly scheduled meetings or on an as needed basis. As I've said here before, keep short accounts with folks. Don't let something simmer and stew. Be timely. Problems that fester don't go away. They just get worse. As Max De Pree says, a leader's job is to define reality and say thank you. Clearly communicating problems is one way reality is defined. You don't do any favors by being vague.
Another manager here also had a helpful suggestion when dealing with problems. He calls it making the charitable assumption. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Start by asking questions, not by making accusations. See what their perspective is first. People want to be judged by their intentions. After hearing their side, then it is appropriate that they hear your side.
Reality and charity--two good things to keep in mind together throughout the year so that the annual review is as constructive as possible for both parties.