Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Tackling tough phrasing, part of Performance Review Foundations.
We all know that employees need feedback. Generally speaking, they want to know how they're doing, and whether or not they're meeting the bosses expectations. Bosses love to give feedback, when it's positive and affirming. It's far more challenging, however, when the feedback is difficult or critical. And there's no time this is more true than when you're delivering an employee evaluation. This formal discussion will challenge your communication skills like few other situations. In this conversation you had the chance to add clarity and motivation.
But you also run the risk of creating conflict and hurt feelings. You can't control how the other person will react to what you have to say. But you can seriously reduce the likelihood of negativity by choosing your words carefully, and delivering them effectively. The old saying, It's not what you say, but how you say it, is actually wrong. What you say matters a lot, that's why to get to this point, you've done so much homework. In addition, how you say what you say, is also very important. That's why I want you to be thoughtful about your words and phrasing.
Most of you find it easy, if not fun to use affirmative phrases. For example when someone has been an exceptional performer you don't have trouble writing and saying something like, improves the performance of others or consistently dazzles clients. But it's harder when you need to use difficult phrasing. Here are a few tips that will help you provide needed feedback, while avoiding unnecessary trouble. First there are a few completely taboo words and topics. Never make remarks about age, race, gender, or disability.
They have no place in a performance review and are likely to get you in trouble and possibly your organization too. Next, remember to refrain from expressing personal likes or dislikes. You're supposed to be impersonally evaluating their performance relative to goals and standards, not sharing deep thoughts about how you personally feel about it. In a similar vein, make a conscious choice to turn your emotions very close to the off position. A small amount of positive emotion is useful, but mostly, you should strive to be less emotional than normal.
And in general, don't show any negative emotions. It's also important to not rely on general statements. For example, you're doing great or, your communication skills can improve. These are vague, and somewhat evasive phrases. Instead, always follow general statements with very specific feedback. For example, I mentored communication, if you're really referring to email etiquette, or presentation skills, say so. The more specific the examples, the better. Another really useful rule is to avoid extreme words or phrases, for example, always, never, or constantly.
These words are way too broad and are very likely to be received as abrasive. Next, think about, how you frame sentences. In a review, it's important to always frame positively. For instance, imagine you see consistent math errors in your employee's work. In the review, you could say, you're clearly not a mathematician. That would be accurate, but negative, and rude. Instead, consider something like this. I'm confident you can increase the accuracy of your work.
That conveys the same idea, framed in a positive light. This approach really helps the employee listen to, and care more about, the feedback you're providing. It's also important to avoid phrases that sound completely inflexible. Phrases such as, you're wrong, you'll never, or I don't care. These types of phases will make the person quickly shut down, stop thinking, and just start shaking their head, as if they're listening, when in fact, they're not. Be more open and positive. Instead of you're wrong, consider saying I see this issue differently, or maybe there's a different way to look at this issue.
Finally, never address a shortcoming or failure without offering clarity about what a good outcome would look like. So, for instance, don't say, your productivity was way down the last two quarters, without also saying, as you know, we're always striving for 100 claims processed per quarter. It's amazing how powerful your words can be. Employees know the appraisal will become a permanent part of their record, and will affect their future status and pay, this creates a lot of stress.
You can reduce unnecessary stress for them by being as thoughtful as possible with the words you use. Start with the tips we just discussed and you're likely to deliver a review they actually want to hear.
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- Understanding the performance cycle
- Setting performance goals
- Collecting performance data and feedback
- Writing the review
- Discussing performance with an employee
- Using a performance improvement plan (PIP)<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.