Make Difficult Evaluations Less Difficult
By Jennifer L. Keller, CPA
No one looks forward to giving a difficult evaluation. Most of us are wired with a desire to avoid conflict, and having a conversation that might turn sour can be slightly frightening. Unfortunately, critical reviews are required on occasion, but there are ways to make it easier on everyone involved.
People are more receptive to constructive criticism if it is dispensed with genuine concern and care. Critique recipients will likely be more encouraged to meet your expectations if they know you enjoy working with them. What follows are some tips for a successful, anxiety free evaluation.
- Point out the positives. No one wants to think that everything they do is wrong. Make sure to touch on the items that they are doing well. Boosting self-esteem will help motivate them to fix the things that need to be worked on.
- Be honest. Sugarcoating a serious issue will not have the same effect as being straightforward. If a subordinate knows all of the facts to start with, he or she cannot claim to be surprised in the future.
- Let them know you are on their side. People, in general, dread giving difficult evaluations as much as receiving them themselves. Make sure the recipient knows that you are discussing these matters because you care about his or her development and career advancement. No one wants to let down someone who is cheering for them.
- Give examples. Do your homework before you meet, and get firm examples of times when the person reviewed did not meet expectations. If it wasn’t you that experienced it first hand, go directly to the source without accepting hearsay as truth. Supplying specific example will help illuminate what is or isn’t being done incorrectly.
- Give tips for improvement. Discuss how you might go about remedying the situation if it were you. Maybe you or someone you know had a similar situation in the past. You can point to that as a possible guide for where they can start.
- Don’t let it get personal. Regardless of how you feel about the person you are evaluating, do not let the conversation include anything personal. A performance evaluation is not to be used to attack their personality. Keep the conversation work-related, and check your feelings at the door.
- Listen to what they have to say. This point is arguably the most important. Allow the evaluated worker time to ask questions. He or she may have an explanation for something that you brought up. It may change your view of the situation.
Giving a difficult evaluation doesn’t have to ruin anybody’s day. Try to keep the conversation relatively light, and don’t make a bigger deal out of the issue than it may be. Follow up with the person in a couple of days or weeks to ask how things are going and if you can help them with anything. This will be appreciated because it let them know you meant what you said.
Jennifer L. Keller, CPA, is a supervisor at McKonly & Asbury LLP in Camp Hill, Pa.
LAST UPDATED 5/11/2012