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How to Give Constructive Feedback during an Employee Evaluation

If your company is like most, the toughest thing for your managers to do during the employee appraisal meeting will be to talk about where an employee’s performance is lacking. Here, again, it’s in your best interest to work in advance with your managers so they’re prepared to handle this undeniably tricky aspect of the process. Here are the points to emphasize:

  • Focus on why candor is important. Managers who, when the need arises, fail to focus on the negative aspects of employee performance are not only doing the employee a disservice but also can be harming your company. The employee can’t improve if the manager doesn’t communicate the need.

    If it becomes necessary to fire an employee, a manager’s failure to mention the employee’s weakness in a performance appraisal can jeopardize the company’s ability to defend the firing decision.

  • Stress the importance of documentation. Managers should always be prepared to back up critical comments with specific, job-related examples. The documentation for these examples should be gathered prior to the meeting.

  • Highlight the importance of careful wording. Managers should be made aware that the wording of criticism is every bit as important as what behavior is being described. Remind managers to focus on the behavior itself. For example, instead of saying, “You’ve been irresponsible,” describe the specific event that reflects the irresponsibility, as in “For the past few weeks, you’ve missed these deadlines.”

  • Encourage employee feedback. After managers have issued any piece of criticism, employees should be given the opportunity to comment. Given a chance, employees often will admit to their shortcomings and may even ask for help.

  • End on a positive note. No matter how negative the feedback may be, performance appraisal meetings should end on a positive note and with a substantive, detailed plan for improvement.

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