Most organizations, at this point of time are through their annual performance assessment cycles. Ask any employee how his/her performance assessment discussion went and you are sure of hear of statements such as 'My manager didn't discuss anything' or 'My manager didn't let me speak' or 'My manager had already decided what my rating would be'. Sentiments such as these give rise to frustration and anger and are capable of converting the fastest running horse into a tardy donkey. The reason why many employees end up feeling dissatisfied after their performance assessment discussions is that they assume that performance assessment is the manager's task and hence end up going to the discussion either under prepared or being complacent. Both scenarios can result in a performance discussion that is mediocre at the best and tortutous at the worst. Employees can easily avoid such a situation by practising the following 5 steps-
Performance Assessment is not an annual activity
Employees must take up the responsibility of ensuring that there are performance oriented conversations throughout the year. These can happen during informal meetings, formal time set aside with the manager to take feedback on one's performance, over E-mails seeking observations on projects/assignments done etc. Many organizations are already consciously moving away from an annual appraisals and are creating platforms to ensure that regular conversations centered on performance take place between managers and employees. Even in organizations that are still sticking to the time tested Annual Appraisal, employees are usually empowered enough to reach out to their managers and seek periodic feedbacks. Periodic feedbacks will help employees execute course correction wherever required and reduce the probability of unwanted year-end surprises.
Never go into a Performance discussion unprepared
Employees must realize that it is their performance that is being discussed. Hence, the onus of highlighting the good work done rests with them. Shoddily prepared documents, hurriedly drafted points etc. indicate the level of seriousness an employee attaches to the performance discussion. A Manager, who, in addition to assessing the employee's performance also has to edit the appraisal form, will only invest so much time in seriously assessing the employee's potential and performance. A good Appraisal form/document is essential in setting the context of the performance discussion. An employee who comes prepared with numbers, data, facts etc. is more likely to end up having a healthy performance discussion with his manager.
Be open to accept feedback
While every employee might expect an Excellent or an Outstanding rating every time, chances are that he/she will be rated highly on some points and asked to improve on others. Instead of arguing and violently disagreeing with the manager, employees should ask probing questions to help understand the manager's perspective. Questions such as 'Can you elaborate this further', 'When did you observe this behavior', 'What else should I have done' ,might create a situation where the manager can also feel confident that his feedback will be taken in the right spirit. This can help ensure a healthy performance discussion. Employees must accept that they are not Super-humans and there are places where they could have done better.
Many managers are looked at as inherently untrustworthy individuals who put their selfish interests first. While in many cases it is the manager who is to blame, in many others, it is the employees who cloud their judgement of the manager with hearsay and rumours. For a mutually beneficial performance discussion, it may be worthwhile for the employee to leave all his biases and prejudices outside the room and approach the Performance discussion with sincerity. Healthier discussions on performance and progressions are more likely when the employee and manager trust each other. An environment of trust will help employees accept feedback better.
Agree to Disagree
At the end of a healthy performance discussion, it is likely that the employee and the manager might not agree on several points. That's okay! A healthy performance assessment discussion doesn't necessarily have to result in 100% agreement between the employee and the manager. There may be difference of views, difference of perspectives and difference in comprehension. The key thing to realize is that it is okay to have these differences. Even if the employee and manager can make efforts to understand the differences and not necessarily resolve them, it would result in a robust performance discussion.