The FAQs on Effective Appraisals

by Lindenberger, Judith Wednesday, November 07, 2007
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How often should you conduct a formal performance appraisal?
During a staffer’s first year with your organization, meet quarterly. Once he or she has settled in and is doing well, twice a year is enough. Just make sure that in between times you talk routinely—especially after a great success you want to reinforce or a big screw-up you want to correct.

How long should an appraisal meeting last?
The basic answer: as long as it takes. Generally, though, allow an hour to set goals and measurements and an hour at appraisal time to go over results.

How soon should you follow up on a task that needs improvement?
Meet again the next week to measure progress and show how important the issue is to you. Then meet regularly so the person knows you haven’t forgotten and you’re there if help is needed. People don’t change overnight—and they seldom change perfectly on the first try. Nudge them to better performance.

Do you have to take time for an appraisal even if everything is going well?
Absolutely. The meeting may be a little shorter if there are few issues to go over. But all employees want to know you’re paying attention. Considering all the time they spend at work, if the boss can’t devote one or two conversations a year to their contributions, they’ll be demoralized. In contrast, they may be energized by time devoted to how to work more effectively and efficiently.

Are there word bombs the boss should always avoid?
Don’t use words that are derogatory —such as “stupid”—or that are judgmental—such as “lazy.” Instead, state the facts: “I have observed you daily sitting at your desk with the paper and drinking coffee when we have data waiting to be entered.”

What is the one thing that will make you a better performance appraiser?
Just do it. From experience and from statistical studies, you can see that those who get regular feedback are much more motivated than those who don’t. If you don’t know how to give feedback perfectly, then learn about it. No matter what, the worst thing you can do is do nothing.