Anytime one receives a gift, the right thing to say is Thank you. Whether you cherish the gift, throw the gift away or re-gift it; the giver should be thanked. A gift and feedback have so much in common. Whether feedback is positive or negative, and regardless of whether the feedback will be used or not the proper response of gratitude remains.
Delivery has a lot to do with our ability to accept feedback gracefully. Organizations in general have had a tough time providing employees feedback. Most organizations force the feedback once a year during the annual performance appraisal. During the past decade, organizations have questioned whether performance appraisals are worth the effort. Often neither the supervisor nor the employee sees much benefit. Why can’t organizations ever get performance appraisals right?
When Human Resources (HR) drives the process with an emphasis on timeliness, it relegates the experience to an ineffective, stressful ritual. It gives HR a method to measure supervisory compliance and gain a sense of control.
Under pressure, the evaluator rushes through the document with a best gut guess and scribbles a few notes. The person being evaluated sits silently waiting to get away or wondering if compensation will be mentioned. No wonder the process is under attack!
The process is not about the document, or the due date. It’s about establishing a development direction for both parties. It’s an opportunity for the person being evaluated to see where the organization is going and how they might contribute. It’s an opportunity for the evaluator to learn about the person’s interests and foster a plan to develop those personal goals. The evaluator may learn how to improve their own management methods.
Evaluators need to be authentic, respectful and focused on the employee’s success. Performance requiring correction should be addressed prior to the formal appraisal. Lou Russell, trainer and author said, “Bad news early is good news.” Should the weakness persist, incorporate it in the developmental plan. Shortcomings can be identified respectfully by framing the skill or behavior gap into an identified need for growth.
Turn the perfunctory ritual in to a developmental plan. The document is there to help the evaluator focus on competencies and recognize the contributions made in the past year. Its use is to guide the conversation. Focus on strengths. Peter Drucker said, “To focus on weakness—is wasteful, a misuse, if not abuse, of the human resource.” Drucker’s advice still works. Recent research, including Gallup agrees.
Be respectful. Separate the person from the performance if performance requires correction. Curiosity is an active way to demonstrate respect. Be curious. Explore why and how the performance is substandard together. Stay focused on the employee’s future success.
The emphasis of the discussion should be more of a preview than a review. Emphasize the future success of the individual and how the person fits into the future of the organization. The desired result is a developmental plan based on an exchange of information.
Inconsistent ratings among evaluators is another problem with our current method of performance evaluation. Often people attribute behavior they observe to subjective decisions that have already been made about an individual.
The significance of rater error increases based on whether and how the metrics are used. Many times the individual’s rating may determine compensation and promotion. A few methods exist to ameliorate this issue; use fewer ratings (1 to 3 vs. 1 to5), define each rating and discuss the appraisal with another manager to justify the ratings.
As our workforce demographics change, our appraisal process must also change. Feedback systems will require greater meaning and frequency. The evaluator needs to be authentic, respectful and forward-thinking to maintain a healthy work environment.
Safety vs. ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t prohibit U.S. Steel Corporation from administering random alcohol screenings to new workers as a safety precaution in safety-sensitive positions. The U.S. District Judge stated random testing was a reasonable method to ensure safety. This ruling halted a proposed class action suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
FMLA is an Entitlement
The Family Medical Leave Act is an entitlement. That means employers cannot interfere with an employee’s right under the Act. In the recent, Hurley v. Kent of Naples case, Hurley was the President of the company and requested a leave of absence as prescribed by his doctor to deal with his depression. The CEO bid him a fond farewell.
This case is the latest poster-child affirming the need for managerial training. Front pay, back pay, attorney’s fees and damages amounted to 1.26 million dollars.
Many times, managers do not recognize when employee absences may be protected. As a result, the information is not being communicated. This creates a huge employer liability.
A number of bills introduced in the last Congress are expected to return to the 113th Congress. These include an amendment to Civil Rights to include sexual orientation and gender identity; Paycheck Fairness Act; Healthy Families Act and an overhaul of the Immigration system which includes a path to legal status for undocumented children.