During employee evaluations the most common process is to have both the manager and the employee complete the employee appraisal formbefore meeting.
The most common result managers see is an employee being much harder on themselves than the manager was, so the employee rates themselves much lower than the manager does.
But what should a manager do when their employee goes the other way and rates themselves as exceptional when in your mind they are barely competent in performing the work?
Before the Employee Appraisal Meeting
The first thing the manager should do is review the comments and employee performance review document of the employee. Look for clues as to the reason why they have rated themselves highly.
You also need to ask yourself if you have been 100% objective with your appraisal. Did you take into account all of the work period or just the last disastrous few weeks?
You need to gather your facts and evidence as to why you believe the person is not performing to standard.
You also need to review your own process of feedback – have you been 100% honest with the person during informal feedback sessions during the work period. If you have glossed over the truth and “talked up” their performance to them in order to motivate them, you may have created the difficult situation through your actions.
Finally, you may want to ask a trusted colleague for a second opinion if you are not sure of your rating.
Once you are sure of your facts you need to prepare for the meeting and all possible likely emotional responses of the employee so you are not caught out at the meeting.
At the Employee Appraisal Meeting
At the employee appraisal meeting you need to let the employee speak first. Dig for more information from them about why they believe they deserve a high rating.
Listen to see if they have taken into account job tasks that you may not have been aware of, or if they have adopted higher responsibilities or dealt with hidden complexities in the tasks. Listen with the intent of understanding (not to prove them wrong!)
You may want to take a coffee break before you share your feedback with the employee to give you a chance to gather your thoughts. If after listening to what they say you still have a major difference of opinion in the rating the best way to start is by what is called “process commentating”.
Start by commenting that you appear to have a major difference in how you have rated the person. Ask the employee why they think you may have a difference of viewpoint and be prepared for some potentially harsh feedback.
Move into commenting that you want to discuss your ratings with them and the reasons why you have rated them at that level. Ask them if they are OK if you do that. By commenting about the process and asking their approval to move into the process you help to defuse the emotion around the discussion and form a base to move forward.
Once you have their OK, move into a very clinical discussion of your ratings followed by the reasons you have for rating them at that level.
During this discussion you may be on the receiving end of tears, anger or silence by the employee. Validate their emotional response, but don’t get sucked into changing your opinion or softening your feedback.
When you are giving feedback, focus on specific behaviours you have observed the person exhibiting. Don’t draw value judgements on the feedback – just stick to the facts.
Give specific and detailed examples of behaviours or projects that went into your decision. If you have copies of what you are talking about in terms of poor drafts or shoddy work then share them with the employee.
If the employee still believes their rating was correct after your feedback and you are wrong, invite them to attach clarifying comments to the review that will go on their personnel file. That way they will still be heard, but the comments will stand.
Now the hard news – in these situations no employee will be happy, no matter what you do. You will need to be ready to deal with any gossip fall out, employee turnover or back-biting.
Last Words About Being Honest In An Employee Appraisal
The fact that you have come to this major difference of opinion means you need to seriously review your own actions in managing your employees. If you are managing 100% ethically and correctly all your employees should know where they stand before their performance appraisal and there should be no surprises.
If you are having a challenge with an employee you need to tell them and not sugar coat the information. The cases that are lost before the Industrial Courts are where a manager has sugar coated the truth for years and not told the employee the honest facts about their performance. Sometimes the manager wears the cost when they dismiss the employee, at other times it is a new manager who walks into a minefield when they speak the truth.
If the personnel records document a history of satisfactory performance, it doesn’t matter what you really wanted to say, the courts will look at the documentary evidence. In the long run honesty is definitely the best policy for employees during an employee evaluation.