By now, you must come across numerous articles that talk about the ins and outs of the appraisal process, from which rating scales to use, what topics to bring up, and in what ways can you gather feedback. But an astonishing number of articles miss out on revealing the hidden aspects of every appraisal conversation. On the surface, your style of communication and expression of emotions may seem not as important to ponder over, but ask any good manager or employee and they will tell you that it is often the way things are said that makes all the difference.
Here’s why how you say matters more than what you say
Think of a time when someone rudely offered you a great piece of advice. Were you able to pay attention to their words over the insulting tone? Probably not. So if the aim of your appraisal conversation is to convey meaningful feedback, why not also focus on your delivery and emotional tone, to ensure listeners see the value in it and accept it?
Most employees find it hard to ask for feedback. It is natural to feel nervous if such a request often leads to a negative behavior being pointed out. It’s also a cause of worry when an employee thinks of the appraisal conversation as a perfunctory step to determine their pay hike. This is when managers must step in and clearly explain the true value of feedback to help their team uncover blind spots and collaborate better.
Once established as a necessary practice, the next step is to ensure that one realizes the differences in dynamics of every appraisal conversation. Being able to modulate tone and body language, based on whether you are speaking to a newcomer who is still learning the ropes or if you are conversing with a mid-level employee who may benefit from learning about opportunities for development - is an art that managers across the board must develop. An overbearing or patronizing tone can render even great inputs useless and hence, managers who are mindful of the power distance between themselves and their employees are greatly appreciated.
The Big E in the room
Emotions can be easily titled the elephants in corporate boardrooms and cubicles. Everyone is shy of them and an unfortunately large number of people wrongly assume that addressing emotions and feelings at work is akin to opening Pandora’s Box.
Fun Fact: It is not.
How emotions are expressed, by whom, in which cultural settings, and during which conversations – are all are important factors to keep in mind before dismissing them as unnecessary. For example, male employees crying during a difficult discussion are perceived differently compared to when their female counterparts get teary-eyed.
By turning the spotlight on employees this time, we can unanimously agree that upon receiving harsh negative feedback, employees can occasionally tear up, get visibly upset, or express their disapproval through body language. These points of inflection can be turned favourably if managers proactively respond to the situation with empathy and compassion. Chances are higher that a kind word spoken when the employee is hurt may make them feel understood and nudge them towards acknowledging the feedback.
Most importantly, be the boss you never had
When the turn comes to becoming a boss, many of us forget to offer our employees the very same things we looked for in our bosses. Empathy, compassion, and respect are not empty words. Their presence in the workplace, especially during sensitive times such as performance appraisals, can’t be compromised.
If your goal is to form an attitude of learning and receptiveness towards feedback, it is essential to make the appraisal conversation one worth having.