While most managers think they are having higher level conversations about performance, the truth usually falls short. Communication typically centers on projects, status updates, issues, etc. When we take a closer look we see one of four types of manager/employee communication:
Four Categories of Manager-employee Communication
There are three settings where managers and employees frequently find time to connect:
- Impromptu communication
Job responsibilities, project status, goals, and all manner of work issues are everyday topics. These conversations happen in spur-of-the-moment ways and places: phone, in-person, email, open door practices and more.
- General questions and general answers
Most employees are sincerely interested in knowing how they are doing. Efforts to solicit feedback typically fall under the “asking general questions” and “receiving meaningless answers. For example:
Employee Asks: How am I doing?
Manager Answers: You’re doing great.
Employee Asks: “What can I do better?”
Manager Answers: “I can’t think of anything.”
Manager Asks: “How is everything going?”
Employee Answer: “Great”.
This common-place question and answer exchange is well-intentioned and polite, but meaningless
3. One-on-One meetings
It should be standard practice for managers to periodically and formally meet with employees on a one-on-one basis to review project goals, status reports, work challenges and talk through new ideas. One-On-Ones should be scheduled (if not more often depending on the circumstances). Most people will have a list of items to review.
4. Formal Review, Evaluation and Performance Appraisal Process
My next point will seem counter-intuitive, but the worst time to talk about performance is at an annual performance review. Research confirms what we already know: traditional performance management practiced in the majority of organizations is broken. For most people, formal performance conversations generate anxiety, fear, and insecurity. Rating and ranking employees gets in the way of meaningful conversations that allow people to learn and grow. Enough said.
Effective Conversations About Work Performance
The missing component of these common workplace conversations is a two-way, targeted, yet informal conversation answering these questions:
“What is expected of me and how am I doing against those expectations?”
Telling managers to give feedback regularly has to be supported by training and a conversation framework. If you want managers and employees to turn vague interactions into insightful give-and-receive performance feedback exchanges, then it’s imperative to provide manager and employee tools and training.