Don’t Rain on “The Dance”

the dance

“The Dance.” 

The Dance is a comprehensive review of team members’ performance results that happens at least annually. First, managers evaluate team members’ performance against established goals and then engage in an interactive discussion.

When assessing team members’ performance, bias could show up. For example, a manager’s personal preferences and filters could consciously and unconsciously affect perceptions about how team members perform. Unmanaged biases could create reputational and financial risks for the organization in the performance management process. Moreover, it could negatively shape the manager’s brand as an effective leader.

There are actions to minimize the chance of it raining on “The Dance.”

Rain Alert

Don’t’ Fall Prey to the Halo or Horn Effect. 

Beware of having generalized positive or negative impressions of an employee and allowing them to influence an overall assessment of the individual’s performance.  Doing so could result in a performance assessment that one does not deserve.

These effects could surface from an isolated personal experience (good or bad), a personal quality or trait that is considered admirable or distasteful, or unconscious biases that float to the surface during the review.

Awareness is the first step in mitigating the Halo and Horn effects.  Other actions could include –

  • Ask multiple colleagues who have first-hand experience of working with the employee for feedback;
  • Review objective data (such as goal achievement) for insight; and
  • Answer the question, “How did [Name] demonstrate proficiency in executing the roles and responsibilities during this review period?” – drive to examples rather than general perceptions.

Don’t Be Misled – the Recency Effect is Real. 

It is easy to focus on the most recent performance behavior. 

Performance that has been non-spectacular during the year could become stellar with the approaching performance review cycle.  Likewise, an employee who enjoyed solid performance during the evaluation period may have caused a business-impacting error in the recent past.

It is crucial to assess the employee’s performance for the entire evaluation period, giving appropriate weight to recent performance results.

Don’t Write a Novel for One Employee and a Few Lines for the Other.

 One of the things considered when investigating an employee’s complaint about a perceived “unfair” performance review is the amount and nature of the documentation. In addition, depending upon the complaint, research sometimes requires reviewing other employees’ performance reviews.

A red alert is extensive documentation or comments that focus on seemingly immaterial issues (peripheral, non-essential functions). At the same time, objective data indicates the employee and colleagues perform at the same or similar level.

Another red flag is the manager sharing extensive constructive feedback verbally with very few documented facts in the performance review.

Be clear and concise in performance documentation.  Focus on the following –

  • Responsibilities documented in the position description
  • Achievement of established performance and professional development goals
  • Demonstrated professional behaviors

Pay attention to having extensive performance comments for some employees while sparingly for others.

Don’t Let the Overall Performance Assessment be a Surprise. 

Many companies have adopted an approach for ongoing performance conversations.  This approach helps to avoid genuine surprises during an annual performance review. 

Whether or not the company has an ongoing performance conversation framework, employees should receive coaching and feedback (affirming and constructive) throughout the year. 

The performance review is not the primary platform to deliver “bad news” the first time.” Unless there is a significant offense that requires immediate action, it is preferable to allow the employee to work toward rectifying the issue.  If the company has a performance management process to address under-performance or inappropriate behavior, follow that process rather than solely relying on the performance review.

It is typically easy to prepare a performance review for an outstanding performer. 

As an exceptional leader, adopting these tips will position you to deliver balanced, productive feedback as you invest in the careers of all the valuable players you work with to achieve remarkable business results.

Stay tuned for our final segment, Choreographing “The Dance.”

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.