Avoid performance reviews that ruin productivity and trust
We know the answer: because they come from people of theory and with very limited practical experience on the company floor. Let's take a look at some advice for bosses and see do they hold the water.
One of advice you can hear is "Ask your employee 'How do you think you've done this year?'"
We have one big problem with that question. There's no doubt you should ask your employee what they think about their workplace and personal progress. If you ask that once a year then you're in trouble. That simply means you are so deep in other things that you don't pay attention all the time. Once a year is just not enough. Why? First, because galaxies are born in 12 months, so it's a long period during which your competition can bring you to the ground just like that.
Then, if you ask after a long period of time, your employees will see you are asking not because you are genuinely interested, but because that's a corporate policy. And let's face, if you can't find more time to talk to your people - you are not interested.
The next advice is "Learn words and phrases to describe employee's attitude and productivity."
We have a huge problem with that one. If one has to learn words that means he can't recognize the behavior of another human being and that's not a managerial problem any more, that's a medical problem. The truth is we all learned all words and their meanings when we were very young - the recognition of human behavior is essential for us to survive - and even people with poor education can say exactly precise is your employee engaged or not.
Some "coach" will tell your that you should say "Great job!" and we tell you find another coach.
"Great job" without explanation what's so great about, what is the achievement you find great, what that employee did right, that's just an empty phrase and after some time it will be accepted by your employees exactly like that.
A formal performance review meeting...
Well, that might be good for company's HR department but that't not enough. Formal meetings will not discover all the details about your workers, their hopes and fears, because they are - formal. To see how's your employee doing you should visit the company floor often enough to see what's going on without formal invitations, presentations, meetings... If you can't do it, your middle management certainly can. If your middle management can't do it, you have middle managers who need to be replaced. Like, now.
And for the end, have your employees write their performance and suggestions down.
There are several good reasons for that. First, it's good to have a paper trail of what's going on and you can easily follow all the improvement over time in your organization. Second, it's easier to forward those documents to other departments if needed.
Then, trust a wise man who said "Everybody can talked me into anything, but it is not possible with a written word." It is much harder to mask bad things if you must write about them, while in talk a good presenter can sell sand in the desert.
For those of you who like TL;DN, take every advice with a grain of salt and ask yourself will the advice create more work and problems than it solves.
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