Are your efforts at performance management received with hostility or defensiveness?
If you’re a manager or a supervisor you might find reviewing and managing the performance of your staff to be one of the less pleasant aspects of your job. You have certain goals and standards that need to be met, and effective performance monitoring and management is part of the process for achieving those goals. But most workers don’t like feeling like they’re being watched – and they like performance reviews even less.
Feelings of nervousness, anxiety, defensiveness and even anger can be common emotions arising out of a performance review. As a result, the person or person’s charged with carrying out this task are often not the most popular people in the workplace.
Nonetheless, for an efficient and productive organisation, effective performance management is essential. Here are a few steps you can take to make the process easier and less stressful for everyone involved:
Step 1: Set reasonable expectations
First and foremost, ensure that your expectations are practical and reasonably attainable. When assessing the performance of your staff, be sure to ask yourself: Are the goals I have in mind reasonable, given the resources available? Unreasonable expectations can almost guarantee that staff will fail, and return a poor performance review.
Step 2: Assess resources and restrictions
When reviewing the productivity and performance of staff, be sure to match their output within a broader context: were they adequately resourced? Did they have the correct equipment, the relevant skills and sufficient experience to ensure timely and satisfactory completion of the task? Were there any circumstances (personal or work-related) that may have impacted on a person’s performance on a particular task? Was the time frame for completion a reasonable one, given the any (or all) of these considerations?
Step 3: Create an environment of clear communication
An integral part of performance management is, of course, communication. Employers and managers alike need to be clear communicators. With effective communication you can ensure directives are received without ambiguity, whilst also ensuring everybody remains in good standing with each other.
Poor workplace communication can be a common source of disputes or conflict. Already tense or pressured work environments can escalate – while productivity falls when a direction is given without due consideration to clarity or tone for example.
Step 4: Take care with written communication
Without due care, written directives can unintentionally be received as terse, short-tempered and even rude. Manage the tone of your emails by demonstrating politeness and gratitude to your team. Some might find smiley faces and other emojis a bit inappropriate (though often effective), but there are other ways of conveying tone and emotion, such as well-placed exclamation marks and a conversational voice. Or, if possible follow up your text communication with a phone call or face-to-face chat, to demonstrate the emotional context of your communiqué.
Good performance management is less about keeping staff in line, than doing your best to ensure staff have everything they need (in terms of resources, good colleagues and managerial support) to perform at their best. The above suggestions represent but the tip of a sizable iceberg. Nonetheless, the most important thing to keep in mind when monitoring and managing the performance of your staff centres around good communication: be polite, be respectful, and be informed. Keeping these in mind will direct the task of performance management into positive and constructive territory, rather than hostility and conflict.
Step 5: Create space for conflict resolution
Good communication skills are very important when resolving performance issues. You may be wondering how on earth a particular employee was unable to complete a task, in spite of all the time and support they had to do it. Yet before launching into accusations, threats and reprimands, start by talking with them: ask them how they felt about their work, where they feel things went wrong, and their views as to how to resolve the problem. Take this feedback away with you, and think about it carefully. The employee might be making excuses for poor performance, but they may also offer a new and important perspective on a sector of your workplace.
• Set realistic and achievable expectations
• Be aware of restrictions and resource limits
• Take care with the way you communicate with staff
• Monitor the way they are communicating with each other
• Take time to review conflicts carefully, with space for feedback
• Remember that politeness, respect and a good sense of humour go a long way in preserving a positive and productive atmosphere in a workplace, even in the event of a disagreement.