I had my own performance review every year, but it is the first time I give performance review to my team. Just like giving interview, sitting on the other side of the table is a total difference experience. I am still a supervisor in training, so my boss is with me when I am giving the performance reviews. It makes me more nervous than my team member. Performance review is a formal communication between the team and supervisor. The performance rating, any bonus or salary raise should not be the focus. The focus of the performance review is how to make your team perform better in the coming year. I think at the end, it is all about managing expectation. Your team will be motivated if they have the right expectation and their expectation is within their reach.
Over time I will develop my performance review style, just I have developed my interview style. For now, my performance review follows the template I read from some coaching manual I found online. First I start the review with some chit-chat, try to loose up the atmosphere. Ask open end questions how the team member feel about their work in the past evaluation period. Then I will bring out the performance report and go over it together. I will highlight their strength, encourage them to further develop strength. I will highlight their problems and come up with objectives to address the problems. One key question I ask is how we (or the upper management) can help them do their job better. I expect some whining with some useful feedback. Then we set the job objectives for the next evaluation period. Ask them what they would like to work on and try to align their interest with the task on hand. It is important to give them a sense of control over their job. Ask them what area they would like to develop since growth opportunity is also a important motivating factor. I will save the letter for last. Giving them the number too early would only distract the communication.
It is easy to give performance reviewer to an average or above team member. They meet their objectives, I can give them a pad on the back (metaphorically) for the good work they have done and they are pretty much on cruise-mode in self-development. Everyone have some weakness, so they don’t bad at all to be told that they have something to work on. On the other hand, the performance reviewer of below average team member is quite trick. I have to handle it with great care. I need to communicate the facts across and at the same time without hurting his feeling or demoralizing him. I try to phase it positively when giving him challenges to work on, but I suspect his is not too happy about the feedback.
Now, I understand why the management always reluctant to give out the ranking or letter grade rating. The average plus workers has no problem accepting their rating. It is the below average workers that is trick. I feel bad telling him in face that he is below average and probably he also feel bad being told that he is below average as well. Without the letter grade written in black and white, at least I can smooth the feedback and make it sounds less harsh. I guess I will feel differently if I don’t have to care about his motivation. If he is a contractor and I can reject him on any future contract. Maybe I will get some pleasure from making him feel bad by crushing his self image with the below average review. Nay, what the heck, if I am not going to work with him in the future, why should I waste my time and energy giving feedback to him?