I’m often asked by managers, “How should I respond when someone starts crying at work?” From the manager’s perspective it’s really awkward when tears start flowing. My answer is this: “Has anyone here ever cried at work?” Some people will admit to being the crier. I admit that I’ve cried at work before. And while it’s uncomfortable for the boss to be on the receiving end of an employee’s tears it’s utterly mortifying for the person who is doing the crying in front of their boss. For me I was humilitating that I was unable to contain my emotions. My point is this: as difficult as it is to be on the receiving end of someone else’s tears it’s usually more embarrassing for the person who is doing the crying. So think about that the next time you’re confronted by someone else’s tears at work. Have some sympathy and acknowledge that the person is upset. I’m can see that you’re upset and I know it must be difficult for you to be in this position. It’s ok if you want to reschedule this conversation. It’s also ok if you want to continue talking.” Give the person time to collect themselves. It’s always a good idea to have tissue on hand to offer.
By all means be sympathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. For some people crying at work is hard to imagine. But how would you feel if it were you crying in front of your boss? As tough as it is being on the receiving end of the tears keep in mind how difficult it is for the person in tears.
Here’s a short video on handling tears at work by Anne Kreamer, author of It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace, best practices for handling emotions at the office.
How to Handle an Employee Who Denies Responsibility
There are times when information about what someone has said or done gets back to us via a third party. We haven’t observed the event firsthand but we’re pretty sure it could have happened. The conundrum is whether we have a conversation with the person in question or not. We hesitate because in this scenario it would involve having to say where the information originated. So we’d hear something like, “who said that”.
It’s best if we are able to observe the performance ourselves and not involve a third party but clearly that’s not always possible. Leaders at all levels are busy and can’t be all-knowing. So what should happen? Because we can’t always observe performance firsthand we have to rely on feedback from others. So it’s perfectly ok to say, something like, "Because I can’t be all places at all times I do rely on feedback from others and I solicit this information on a regular basis."
“Well, who said that about me?” The important thing here is to ask whether the incident did or didn’t take place. Listen to the employee’s explanation. If there is a flat-out denial yet you suspect that the incident did occur then just concede. Concede by saying something like, “I’m very relieved to hear that wasn’t the case because I’d have been really disappointed.”
There’s no use in having a “yes, you did, no, I didn’t” conversation. If the incident didn’t take place then the employee is off of the hook, as he/she should be. And if there was some truth to what occured and the employee didn't take ownership of the issue then at least he/she knows that you know. It will then be less likely to occur again.
So what if you keep hearing reports of the same behavior or performance? First rule out that the person(s) reporting the behavior doesn't have an ax to grind. At this point you really have to escalate the conversation and communicate that this information has now gotten back to you numerous times. And if you can, it’s best to put yourself in a position to observe the performance firsthand.
Have you ever been given feedback that didn't seem to fit with your perception of your performance? What did you do about it? If you're like most people, you dismissed it. Why? Because that's one of the things we do. We take in information and try to make sense of it using our mental model, view or experience of the world. When we're told something that doesn’t match or fit with our mental model, we typically dismiss it as false.
It's one of the reasons why performance appraisals are hard for managers and employees and can have little impact on employee performance. If the employee is given feedback or ratings that don't fit with the way they see themselves, they write it off, and nothing changes.
So what can you as a manager do about that?
Foster Some Introspection and Self-Knowledge
True change is always motivated from within. A person has to personally recognize a need for change before they will act. So fostering introspection and self-knowledge can be an important way to support employee performance and development.
Asking each employee to complete a self-appraisal can be an effective way to do that. It challenges them to examine their performance as you their manager will, and to honestly evaluate it, and identify areas of strength and areas for development. Now for this to truly work, there needs to be a relationship of trust between the manager and employee; no one is going to admit weakness to someone they don't feel safe with. Your employee needs to honestly feel that you as their manager have their best interests and development at heart, and that it's OK to not be perfect some of the time.
In addition to fostering introspection and self-knowledge, self-evaluations have a way of introducing more accountability to the whole performance appraisal process and to the workplace as a whole. They let the employee know that they are responsible for their performance, development and improvement.
Finally, having your employee complete a self-assessment gives you, their manager, insight into their perceptions of themselves. It helps you to know ahead of time if they are open to the feedback you're going to provide, and can give you clues for guiding your conversations with them in a more effective way.
Reinforce the Feedback
When I hear something once that doesn't fit with my image of myself, I'm likely to dismiss it. If I hear it repeatedly, from multiple sources, I'm likely to start questioning the feedback and myself. It can help me see myself through others' eyes, and form a new image of myself as a result. That's one of the great advantages of 360 degree feedback. It lets me hear the same feedback multiple times, from several different sources.
When employees receive the same or similar feedback in this way, they tend to find it more credible. They also can get more details and concrete examples about their behavior and its impact, helping them better understand what it is they need to change and why. It can also help you as a manager, get a broader perspective on your employees' performance and perhaps even shift your perspective or mental model.
Unless there is some congruence between the feedback you give your employees and their perceptions of themselves and their performance, your feedback is likely to have little impact. You can help ensure greater congruence by supporting your employees in acquiring greater self-knowledge and perspective, and by establishing a safe, ongoing dialogue with them about their performance and development
This post was submitted by Sean Conrad. Sean works for Halogen Software and helps companies provide their managers with the tools and skills they need to effectively manage their workforce. You can read more of his thoughts on the art of management on the Halogen "Exploring talent management" blog
Most Managers Don’t Volunteer Performance Feedback; You Have To Ask Tor It.
Most managers won’t address an issue even if it’s just something small for fear of how you might react. So that means that most of us aren’t receiving information about what is working and what needs more attention.
One-on-One meetings are regularly scheduled meetings where you and your boss meet for about 20 - 30 minutes. If you don't have one-on-one meetings with your manager then ask. What do most managers and employees talk about in one-on-one meetings? What’s coming up, problems at work, status updates and maybe small talk like “have you seen any good movies”? You might hear a “How’s it going?” from your manager to which you’d likely answer, “everything is good”. That’s not good enough. What you need is actionable performance feedback you can learn from and act upon. Learn what you do well and should continue with and find out what needs more attention. When do you need this information? On a just-right-for-you basis and certainly well before the performance review.
Timing for Feedback
Most performance reviews are conducted once yearly. How many months of performance can you and your manager clearly recall? Twelve? Highly unlikely unless you both possess savant characteristics. Most people say they can clearly recall about one months’ worth of performance. I even question that as I can’t even remember what I had for dinner two days ago. So how often should performance conversations occur? As a best practice, performance feedback conversations should occur at least once monthly.
How much feedback is enough and how often feedback happens depends on you. If you’re new to a job then I’d suggest seeking out feedback at least once a week. If you’re a more seasoned employee then I’d suggest once a month and no less than once per quarter (and that’s pushing it). If your company is downsizing then I’d make sure that I’m very quickly aware of any blind spots. That way I can bring my performance up a notch or two.
Questions to Ask
The questions we ask determine the quality of feedback we receive.
Not So Good Questions
Asking questions like the ones in the example below will only garner generalized responses:
"How am I doing?" "You’re doing great."
"What can I do better?" "I can’t think of anything."
"What should I stop doing?" "Stop interrupting me in meetings." Personally I don’t like the “what should I stop doing” question because it invites criticism.
"What did you think of my presentation?" "It was really good."
Effective Questions to Ask When Seeking Performance Feedback
Ask about the one-thing. For some reason asking someone to tell you the “one-thing” makes it easier for the feedback provider to hone in on the most important piece of information. Here are some examples:
"In the meeting, was there one thing I said or did that helped position our services?" "When you said…"
"What’s one thing I could do for the next meeting to make it even better?" "I’d let the customer first tell us about…and then we can… "
"What one element of that report that worked?" "When you gave the background about..."
"What’s one thing that would make the next report even better?" "I’d suggest adding some background information about____ first, just to give some context, and then introduce the numbers."
"What’s one thing I could do to work better with you?"
"What’s one way I could support you more?"
Going after regular performance feedback versus waiting for someone to give it is key to managing our careers and professional development. It’s about learning and applying, learning and applying, learning and applying. Wash rinse repeat.
There’s been a lot written about getting rid of the performance review. I came across a Harvard Business Review Article titled “Ditch Performance Reviews? How About Learn to do Them Well. Only about one-percent of organizations have gotten rid of performance reviews. So if 99% of organizations are sticking with the practice it makes sense to do a better job with reviews and make them mean something.
One problem is the frequency: once a year. It’s like being in school and getting a one-time report card with no teacher support and guidance in between. Plain and simple: once a year is too infrequent. As the HBR article pointed out, “if the performance review is done just once per year it’s likely that the reviewer will remember only the most recent information unless stellar records were maintained.
According to HBR article, “for an effective performance review, there should be a full record of the employee's activities. If not, research shows you will base your evaluations on the most recent or salient events, which are more readily retrievable from memory. The odds of such an evaluation being comprehensive and unbiased are quite low”. Common sense.
So you can either do an amazing job at keeping documentation all year, in which case you’ll likely need a system, either on paper or an on-line system that allows for journaling, to keep notes. This way you can save up all your comments for the once per year performance meeting. Wait, did I just say that? Save up all your notes for the once per year meeting? This makes no sense at all. Why do I want to hear about how I’m doing just once per year?
A better practice is having 3 or 4 mini conversations per year. Yes, much better. That way, as the employee, I receive more frequent information and I can better gauge where I’m at. This allows me to keep tweaking my performance in terms of what I need to do to be more effective. Equally important is hearing about what I’m doing well and should continue with. And how about goals? Setting goals once per year when change is a constant just doesn’t cut it. Instead, implement a practice to look at goals each quarter and adjust and update them as needed.
Components of a Mini Review:
One Strength Name the overall strength, a few specific examples and mention the impact; people like to see how they fit into the big picture.
One Area for Focus Name the area, describe and dicuss specific actions that would help the individual meet the focus area, and describe what will happen (the positive impact).
Goals A review of any previously set goals (status update, what’s no longer relevant, any new goals). The employee can prepare his/her notes on goal status before you meet.
Other Achievements Major achievements outside of stated goals. Have the employee come prepared to discuss this.
And you’re done.
You may have managers who complain about having to talk with employees about performance four times per year. You know what I say? Too bad. At a minimum that's doing their job. I would however keep the mini review form to one-page. If you do ratings then do this just one-time per year. The other times should be more informal check-in conversations.
Does your company do reviews more than once per year?
See the HBR article, Ditch Performance Reviews? How About Learn to do Them Well?
When Your Boss Just Isn't Cutting It
It’s hard enough finding the courage to confront a colleague or subordinate about their tendency to arrive late to meetings, steal credit from you or interrupt while you’re talking. But what if that annoying colleague happens to be your boss?
Perspective on the 360 degree review
The primary mechanism for offering feedback up the ladder – the 360 degree review – doesn’t help very much. Giving direct and timely feedback is the best way we know to help people understand their impact on others. However, most people will admit that the very idea makes them uncomfortable. That’s one reason why 360 feedback tools are so popular in organizations. The anonymity can help people feel safe about giving feedback. But relying on 360’s to get your message across is not that effective because of all the variables. For instance your boss might not choose you to participate, or she might get defensive about the feedback or worse yet tries to find out who wrote what comment.
When anyone behaves poorly or underperforms at work, much less a boss, our inclination is to say nothing and “just deal with it.” Indeed, most managers say they only intervene with subordinates when a performance issue has persisted for a long time, or when they are about to terminate the employee. Only about six-percent of people we’ve polled say they offer early-on feedback. If these meager statistics are true for how little feedback comes down the chain of command, how few times do you think feedback makes it up the management ladder?
Honoring the hierarchy and being diplomatic are safe. Yet enduring poor leadership and or a negative boss-influenced workplace has its costs. When our bosses repeatedly lose their tempers, miss deadlines, talk behind the backs of colleagues, or engage in other unproductive conduct, the boss-employee relationship becomes strained.
One boss, the top-level executive at a technology company, used to constantly answer her phone during the twenty minute weekly meeting with one of her subordinates. The subordinate counted on this time to get input on important organizational issues. The executive was totally distracted, and the twenty scheduled minutes dwindled down to about five minutes total. These exchanges left the subordinate feeling unvalued and discounted. Important and time sensitive action items were delayed due to the lack of air-time he had with his boss. Because he failed to speak up, nothing changed. Over time, his irritation with his boss increased, he fell behind with some important initiatives and his loyalty and respect for his boss fell to dangerous lows.
In our work and research we’ve formulated clear best practices for talking with bosses about our expectations. The approach is designed to help you feel like you can comfortably communicate information without prompting a negative or defensive reaction. Here are three things to keep front-of-mind:
Our last thought is to make this a one-time and at most a two-time conversation. We don’t always get what we want, even when we ask politely and in a positive way. If your boss does change her ways, make sure to acknowledge the change and thank her for it (so she keeps doing it!).
Asking versus suffering in silence is worth the effort, even if it doesn’t bring a complete end to the problem. In most cases we’ve found that feedback delivered in the right way is welcomed. You may learn good reasons why your boss can’t do what you want or you might learn that your boss isn’t interested in changing. If it emerges that your boss isn’t invested in changing, well, there’s nothing you can do about that. You tried. If this issue becomes unbearable then it might be time to find another place to be successful.
Have you ever given feedback to your boss? How did it work out?
Written by Jamie Resker, Founder and Practice Leader, Employee Performance Solutions, LLC and Michael Shipman, Vice President of Talent at the Rockland Trust Company.
There are two ways, as I see it, of conducting a good talent review. The 9-box (measuring Performance and Potential) and the 4-box, measuring just Performance. My personal preference is the Employee Performance Continuum (the 4-box), which you can dowload in a paper-based version with instructions. I prefer it because it's a visually-based talent assessment tool. And since the brain has more orbital capability, thinking in pictures requires less effort.
How do the 4-box and 9-box differ?
The 4-box: The Employee Performance Continuum leaves employee Potential out of the equation and instead just measures the "Performance" piece. So, the 4-box talent model breaks Performance down into two components: the WHAT and the HOW.
The 9-box: Most talent management professionals are familiar with the 9-box model (here's the paper-based version) which measures both Performance and Potential.
Here's a suggestion if you're using the 9-box and are responsible for succession planning and identifying high potential and at risk talent, especially in a larger organization where tracking, reporting and automation are critical: Take a look at this tutorial for an on-line 9-box and succession planning tool. This tools is offered by Halogen Software and last I checked Halogen lets you try it out. The reason I like the Halogen on-line tool is because after answering some simple questions about the employee it then generates a 9-box visual model. Nothing tells a story better than a picture!
Using the 4-Box: Measure the What and the How
The Performance Continuum allows you to measure both Job Competence which represents what gets done (job responsibilities, skills and goal attainment) alongside Behaviors which represent how the person conducts themselves in your work environment. Ideally we want to attract and retain team members who are both highly accomplished in terms of their ability to do the work plus exhibit the right behaviors.
Plot the Employee
With a dot or initial indicate where each employee on your team is on the model. Unsure? Ask another trusted advisor, a peer or someone at a more senior level, where they see the employee. People experience others in various ways. For example, an internal customer might have an entirely different view of the individual. Talk it through by having a conversation about how the employee's performance contributions are viewed.
Current and Planned Positions
To maximize a review of your talent indicate where employees are currently and where you need them to be. The key is to then figure out what it will take for the employee to reach the new level of performance. In our work we find it's usually one thing the person needs to start or stop doing to become more effective. Then you'll want to provide feedback and coaching to help the employee make progress.
The One Thing...
Ask yourself, "What one thing would help this person be more effective? People can only work on one or two things at a time. Choose the highest payoff issue that would make the greatest difference in the employee's performance and choose words that describe what you want them to do (as opposed to having a conversation around the deficiency). Don't forget to provide feedback when you see the individual making progress on the area for development. They will know they've been able to meet the expectations and their efforts have been noticed. While it's important to provide feedback on areas for development it's equally critical to provide timely reinforcing feedback.
Reassess the employee's performance after feedback and coaching has been provided. Re-plot them to measure the effectiveness of the intervention. Access the free talent review tool with instructions at http://www.employeeperformancesolutions.com/resources/talent-review-tool/
If you are looking for an outside organization to conduct a talent review in your organization contact us.
A simple experiment to determine if your talent management processes are doing what they should:
Randomly select an appropriate sample size of your people- managers. Have the selected managers and all of their employees do the following Matching Questions Excercise:
The Manager: For each employee, write down the answers to the following questions: The "one-thing" he or she does really well and should continue with AND the "one-thing" he or she should be focusing on to be even more effective in the role.
The Employee: Records the one-thing he or she considers to be a top strength and should continue to be emphasized AND the "one-thing" that should be done to be even more effective in his or her role.
When comparing the answers between the manager and employee do they match? If so, then change nothing with your PM process; keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working. If the answers don't align then adjustments need to be made in the current performance management processes, tools and practices.
This is Alarming
What’s really scary is the research we’ve done shows that nearly 100% of managers when asked these matching questions will acknowledge that the answers they write and the answers the employee write would be mismatched. Those that do answer yes seem a bit unsure.
An Obvious Conclusion
At a minimum your people-managers and their team members should have a shared understanding of what is going well and should continue (one or two items will do) AND that “one-thing" that should be developed to increase overall performance effectiveness. Can your PM processes do that? It should.
We’re excited to have Sean Conrad, a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, provide some insight on employee motivation.
1. The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way
-escape can be a strong motivation for travel
2. The general desire or willingness of someone to do something
- keep staff up to date and maintain interest and motivation
Motivation. It’s complex and sometimes just plain unpredictable, but as a manager, understanding motivation is critical to helping your employees perform at a high level. This ability is truly an art, and one that requires ongoing effort and attention from even the strongest of managers.
It’s important to keep in mind that what may motivate one employee simply may not do anything for another. In fact, studies have consistently shown that while pay for performance can be a motivator for some employees, it is simply not enough for others.
When it comes to employee recognition, here’s what employees really want:
To receive fair pay and benefits
To receive time and attention from supervisors
To feel their contribution to the company is valued
To be trusted to make decisions and have some control over their work
To have clear goals set out by management
To be treated with dignity and respect
To receive recognition, even for everyday tasks
To receive training / mentoring / leadership development
Many of these motivating factors don’t involve monetary reward at all. So with that said, how can you ensure you deliver on the above? Here are four performance management best practices that can help.
1. Give Regular Feedback on Performance
Even if your organization only conducts performance appraisals once a year, managers should be having ongoing, consistent conversations with employees about performance. These could be in the context of weekly update meetings, monthly check-ins and/or quarterly mini appraisals. Having ongoing conversations about performance enables you, the manager, to provide timely recognition of your employees’ achievements and to identify and address any issues or areas for improvement earlier on.
2. Provide Opportunities for Training and Development
Too often employee development discussions remain neglected until the next annual performance review. Development needs are identified based on performance ratings and "stretch" goals, then a few courses or learning activities are assigned.
Development is a continuous process, and providing employees with ongoing opportunities throughout the year can go a long way to driving employee motivation. Employee development can take many forms - from formal training opportunities to providing relevant books to read.
The key is to ensure you are regularly assessing throughout the year where employees are in terms of development activities. You may have an employee who completes all of her development activities in the first quarter, which means you’ll both need to consider further challenges and opportunities to continue her development.
Conversely, an employee may be struggling with development activities; work with this employee to reassess his training and development plan so he can continue to feel positive about his development goals.
3. Monitor Progress on Goals
Effective goal management is ongoing. It requires regular continuous dialogue between managers and employees that includes: feedback and coaching, prioritizing, and employee development and career planning.
The result is that employees have visibility into how they're contributing and the effect of their efforts so they can celebrate milestones and successes. This regular progress check also enables you to adjust and update goals as business or other priorities change.
4. Master the Art of Performance Conversations
A lot of what holds managers back in terms of effectively motivating their team is a lack of confidence or skill in facilitating productive performance conversations. This is especially true when the conversation is centered on addressing a performance issue.
To this point, Halogen Software is excited to partner with Jamie on a webinar that will help managers manage with these sometimes difficult and awkward performance conversations.
Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of talent management software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.
Most of what HR professionals (this included me) have taught our leaders about giving performance feedback and addressing performance issues is flat out wrong.
We learn and use the “constructive criticism” and SBI approaches (Situation, Behavior and Impact). The SBI approach is usually awkward and overkill for most situations. Turns out that criticism, constructive or not is still criticism. 9.75 out of 10 times the person on the receiving end will react defensively, moving you further away from your goal of actually getting the individual to listen and upgrade their performance.
I dug out a horrendous training presentation I developed back in 2001. I’m completely embarrassed yet still posting the slides for the world to see. The worst of it is on slide #8; be sure to check that one out. First off, I was giving outdated useless "how-to" advice on the topic. Second, my PowerPoint skills at the time were sorely lacking (I’ve since gotten to be a PowerPoint Jedi). WARNING: do not implement this or anything that resembles it in your organization and if this is your organization’s approach to teaching managers how to manage performance it’s not too late to adopt a more modern approach to this age-old challenge.
Check out a short article The Worst Way to Give Feedback to see if you or the leaders in your organization are approaching feedback in this way. My bet is that it’s what you learned and if you’re in HR it may be what you’re teaching others. Learn a modern approach to giving performance feedback by registering for the HR.com webcast, Mastering the Art of Giving Performance Feedback, on August 17, 2011 1-2pm ET.