These months are probably the most dreaded period in corporate world – by managers and employees alike, albeit due to different reasons. Performance appraisals, ratings, normalization and the resulting increment and bonus are top of the mind issues. Some organizations also link this to promotion, which adds fuel to an already blazing fire!
Several organizations believe in benefits of this frenzied activity: increasing performance bar, weeding out poor performers, differentiating talent etc. Needless to say, there are some benefits, while some could be mere perception. Enough thoughts have already been expressed on this topic.
I would rather focus on the reality faced by managers, irrespective of whether they believe in the process or not. They have to follow the process laid out: rate employees, participate in normalization meetings and agree (or forced to agree) to certain rating and resulting increments and bonus. This is also simple, at least as compared to the next step, which is communicating the rating and financial information back to the employees.
This is where the manager’s hit a road block. How do you communicate to an employee who was expecting an exceptional rating, did exceedingly well in your opinion within the team, but was not given exceptional rating as part of normalization. How do you communicate to an employee who has been identified as a poor performer, needs to be weeded out? Emotional outbursts are not uncommon. However, employees going into silence is an equally worrying situation. Attrition invariably goes up in this period. Interestingly, at times HR takes pride in anticipating such attrition and proactively keeps some back-up candidates.
What the manager says and how he acts has an impact on the employee’s next course of action. The manager to a large extent, if not 100%, can influence whether the employee stays or quits. Here’s what the manager can do while faced with a dissatisfied employee post performance appraisal:
Genuinely listen to the employee’s concern without any judgment. If you judge as you listen, believe me, it will show on the face. It is easy to catch someone who is pretending to listen.
Empathize with the employee. Empathy is not equal to agreement. It’s possible to empathize only and only if the manager is not trying to defend his or her position. And acknowledge the feelings and outburst of the employee. Empathy combined with genuine listening would help the employee realize that there is still someone who cares for him or her in the organization. And not all is lost.
Take ownership of the rating, the increment or bonus. And provide the rationale for the rating. Worst thing a manager can do is to pass on the blame to a committee or higher ups. It’s tempting to do, however it’s a worst possible step that a manager to could take. It will only reduce the employee’s faith in the manager. And bolster his or her decision towards exit. Who would want to work with a spineless manager, who cannot defend or fight for the rights of his people?
Help the employee look towards future. This is possible only if the first three steps are done well and the employee opens up to listen with open mind. At times, it may not happen in the same meeting, manager may be able to get the employee to this state only after couple of more meetings. But, this indeed could be the step towards renewal!