We’ve all been there, having to deal with just one or two pesky people in any group that just won’t play by the rules. You have heard the statement: there’s one in every crowd. Well, that is true in more ways than one. There certainly is one in every crowd, and you will need to learn how to deal with the one in your crowd so that you can build the Dream Team that will help you excel in the business world and make the profits you are looking to make.
Many times performance appraisals will do the trick of taming an unruly employee, however on rare occasions they just don’t work.
Ideally performance appraisals are given to everyone in your organisation. This gives you and your team a benchmark and allows people to determine their own performance and goals.
Usually a problem employees will shape up after they are given a performance appraisal because they’ve often been given some guidelines or rules they didn’t have before which helps them to do the right thing. Many times inappropriate behaviour is the result of a person not knowing what the right thing to do is.
Sometimes an employee acts up just because they want to vent or have a quiet conversation and a performance appraisal is the only time when they think it’s OK to be candid about problems they’re having with the work or other people. Often their performance and behaviour will change instantly simply because they were given fifteen minutes of individual attention. Sometimes it just may be that they need very clear directives on how to improve and a performance appraisal can give them that.
The bigger problem emerges when a problem employee does not respond to performance appraisals.
Some individuals resent being judged and consider the process of the performance appraisal as a way for managers to manipulate people. When this occurs alternative strategies for assessing the person’s performance may be required, or if the skills they contribute to the team are non-essential you may even consider replacing them altogether.
When an employee with a problem responds emotionally with anger, resentment or hostility to a performance appraisal there is often some underlying problem that they are either unwilling or unable to share. In these situations you will need to assess the individual’s value and contribution to your team and make a determination about how much to invest in the person’s development. You may feel that you’re unable to do without them in which case you may consider bringing in appropriately skilled professional counsellors to work with the person and assist them with their issues so that you get back a valuable team player.
In rare cases a performance appraisal can turn into a showdown between a disgruntled individual and their manager. This happens when the problem employee is unable to accept your authority or respect your position of power over them and they will turn the tables and attack your performance. When this happens there is little that can be done to rectify the situation and the best that can be achieved is to come up with a harmonious parting of ways. Individuals who do not respect your authority are unlikely to change their mind or behaviour once they’ve made their feelings public. It is very difficult for someone to retract their publicly voiced opinion without damage to their self-confidence. The best you can do is limit the damage this person can have on your team by getting them out the door with as little fuss as possible.
Sometimes performance appraisals can break down into blaming and shaming. Your problem person may even breakdown and cry to leverage feelings of guilt that may arise in you in this sort of situation. Often they will talk about being singled out, even if they clearly are not, or they may divert the issue by blaming someone else for unfairly accusing them of something. By creating drama in blaming others or attempting to bring up awkward feelings in you during their performance appraisal these people are distracting you from the task at hand, which is to assess their performance. In wanting to disguise the reality or hide from the truth these people are revealing their shortcomings and by talking to other members of the team you will usual arrive at the true situation. Whilst these people are not outright liars they use subterfuge and distraction to their own ends, which can really drag down others in your dream team. Sometimes a team needs someone like this to lift them higher. If your team isn’t responding well to their presence then putting them somewhere else in the organization or letting them go can be a kindness for everyone.
As the person responsible for conducting performance appraisals there is a significant burden on your shoulders to ensure that you do the best you can during these sessions. The pressure of feeling that you are sitting in judgement of others can be pretty powerful and different people can respond to it in strange ways. Some hate the process, so procrastinate and delay the inevitable. Others relish the task and take pleasure out of assessing and interrogating others. Neither is particularly healthy and both will result in very damaging outcomes for you and your team.
Ideally you want to be emotionally controlled and maintain a professional business attitude, much like when you’re a mentor. This enables you to get the evaluations down quickly so everyone involved can learn and benefit from the experience.
Here is a list of things you can do to ensure your performance appraisals work well
- Be professional and book times in advance for performance appraisals that cannot be cancelled or rescheduled for any reason. This sends the message that you are serious about the process and you want to help your team improve. As individuals the people in your team will get the message that you value and respect them.
- Learn strategies for giving people direct and honest feedback – like the ‘feedback sandwich’ technique. Shying away from the truth or being flippant about a person’s actual performance may give them a false sense of job security or devalue the excellent performance they give.
- Keep your assessment focused on the period under review only. Dragging up issues from long ago incidents that have no relevance to the current situation only highlights your own prejudices and insecurities… And speculating on future events that haven’t yet occurred will seriously undermine the employee’s ability to perform at peak levels in the future.
- Consistency is vital during appraisals. Your comments must reflect any scores you write down. It is useless for you to secretly write down ‘the real’ score and then not communicate to the employee why they’ve received that score. What you write and what you say must send a consistent message.
- Give feedback outside of appraisals too. If someone on your team has been slipping with their performance let them know when it’s happening rather than surprise them with it during a performance appraisal months later. Surprising your employee with feedback about their performance that they believed was acceptable because no one said anything in an appraisal can result in highly emotional reactions that will detract from other aspects of the assessment.
- Stick to evaluating the achievement of outcomes and avoid things like their personality, work style or problem solving strategies. When you focus on outcomes such as quality, ethics and timeliness etc. you’ll avoid being accused of preferential or biased treatment during appraisals.
- When writing appraisal comments provide examples of the behaviour you wish to highlight to the individual as being worthy of attention. Rather than saying ‘has good attitude’, be specific – ‘talks courteously with clients on the phone, will take on additional responsibilities when asked and contributes positively in team meetings’.
- Be mindful of how you word your comments and avoid statements that include absolutes, like ‘you’re always late’ or ‘you never help out by answering the phones’. All it takes is for the person you’re assessing to point out one occasion when they did the opposite and your feedback will be ignored because in their mind you’re wrong.
- Appraisals need to be a conversation for employees to get real value out of them. By taking the time and allowing people to ask questions about how they are being evaluated and what you mean by particular comments you create a more relaxed environment in which you can both be candid without it racing off into an emotional roller coaster. After all the purpose of these meetings is for you to help your people be the best they can be.
- Set SMART goals together by sharing the goals you have for the team and asking your employee to consider them when setting their own. This will create a natural alignment between their individual needs for achievement and those of the team.
In the end your team is a collection of people who have emotions, aspirations and big dreams of their own. When you bring different people together from different disciplines with different skills there can be clashes and differences of opinion. Even having just one person who isn’t quite the right fit means you have just a regular team rather than a dream team.
At the end of the day helping your employees to recognise their value to your organization or the fact that they don’t fit in is what your performance appraisals are all about. And if you find you need to sack, fire or terminate an employee you need to remember that it is really a win-win. You have made room for some else who is better suited to your team to come in and you have released the employee so that they can find a better more suitable job somewhere else that they will enjoy a lot more.