can telephonesWe asked leading Author and long-time emPerform Partner Marnie Green for her advice on helping to avoid a common review challenge – making reviews an effective dialogue between employees and managers as opposed to a one-sided story. Here is what she said!

Avoiding One-Sided Performance Reviews. By: Marnie E. Green, CSP, IPMA-CP

Performance evaluations are often painful because they are one-sided. You talk and the employee listens. There’s an easy way to take the pain out of this awkward annual ritual and that is to get the employee involved. In order to encourage dialogue during the meeting, employees should know that they have your full interest and undivided attention. This is accomplished by holding the meeting in an environment that has no distractions. Your job is to ask thought-provoking and insightful questions to encourage the employee to do most of the talking. I know, this is easier said than done. Here are some pointers for engaging employees to participate as much as possible in the performance evaluation conversation.

Seek employee input prior to preparing the evaluation. Your first opportunity to involve the employee in the performance evaluation is before you get started.  Ask the employee to provide you with examples of their accomplishments and challenges from the past year.  Request they share with you the goals they would like to pursue in the next year. Software such as CRG emPerform can help you streamline these requests.

Use as many open-ended questions as possible. Questions such as Do you agree with the evaluation?, and Do you have any questions? are commonly asked by managers in performance evaluation meetings; and they lead nowhere. These questions get you one word responses which are not very useful in gauging the employee’s perspective, and they don’t encourage the employee to elaborate. In fact, they shut down the conversation.

Instead, ask as many open-ended questions as possible during the evaluation meeting to ensure that you get the most feedback and insight as possible. Open-ended questions also offer a platform for the employee to express their true thoughts and viewpoints. Questions such as What do you like or dislike about your job? and What aspects of your role are most challenging? are likely to encourage more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.

Use conversation starters. Of course you want to keep the conversation flowing throughout the entire evaluation meeting. No one likes awkward silence.  To avoid the sound of crickets, keep a list of conversation starters in your back pocket and use them whenever the conversation begins to dwindle. Common examples of great conversation starters include:

“Go on…..”
“Tell me more…”
“Why do you say that…”
“How do you mean…”
“Can you give me an example…”
“What else…”

Let the employee read the evaluation before the meeting. The employee is more likely to contribute to the evaluation conversation if he/she has had time to gather their thoughts. By asking the employee to read and digest the performance review beforehand, you allow him/her time to process their thoughts and prepare their own questions for you.

Performance evaluation meetings don’t have to be awkward and one-sided. Open up the conversation, allow the employee to contribute, and the meeting has the potential to become a time for valuable dialogue.

About the Author

Marnie GreenMarnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Management Education Group, Inc. and is a leading expert in the management of public sector employees.  Her books, Painless Performance Evaluations and Painless Performance Conversations, are used worldwide by federal, state, and local government leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: [email protected]  web site:

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