Performance Appraisal Training Courses – Handling conflict in appraisals

This one-day appraisal course will teach delegates how to raise the motivation of employees and improve performance through setting objectives; giving effective feedback and praise. Our performance management course also provides tips and techniques for managing conflict in appraisals as well as showing delegates how to write effective performance reviews quickly, easily and effectively.  Delegates who have taken our appraisal courses have gone on to see a dramatic increase in staff performance through applying the strategies they have learnt in the art of ‘appraising employees successfully’.

Handling conflict in appraisals

How would you deal with these situations? Don’t worry if you can’t think of appropriate responses as there are some suggestions at the end of this article.

  1. You are carrying out the appraisal of one of your team. To your surprise she asks to be considered for a promotion which you feel she is under-qualified.
  2. You bring up the subject of your team member’s poor timekeeping record. He responds aggressively saying that ‘everyone else is late, even you don’t turn up on time’ and then makes excuses about train delays.
  3. You are carrying out the first appraisal a member of your team – a mother of two who has returned to work. She has proved excellent, if quiet, and you are hoping to promote her. She responds to this suggestion by protesting that she could not do the job and that she is having trouble coping with the job she has now.
  4. You are accused by the appraisee of not promoting him because ‘you’ve never liked me’ and then says that you won’t promote him as you are afraid he will take over your job.

Critising constructively

One of the hardest parts for managers is the subject of constructive criticism. Many managers feel awkward giving ‘bad news’, however justified. The following points should be considered when you are trying to criticise constructively.

1. Introduce the topic

Bob I’d like to talk to you about the new design for the induction programme.

2. Make your criticism specific

I was expecting to receive your design by the end of last month as agreed at the last performance review meeting so that we might put it to management.

3. Get a response to the criticism to get agreement

Do you agree?
Is that the way you see it?
Do you remember the discussion?

4. Ask for suggestions about changes

When do you think it will be ready?
Do you need anything else to achieve this objective?

5. Summarise and clarify the suggestions

So let’s agree that the new programme will be read in two weeks.

Tips and techniques

1. Use ‘I’ language

The person giving the criticism should speak for themselves and express feeling and opinions clearly.
I think you should make sure that you arrive at a meeting on time.
I feel upset when you ask me to work overtime three nights in a row

2. Direct criticism

The criticism should be directed at something said or done. It should not take the form of a personal attack.
When you presented the sales results at the monthly meeting you completely overlooked the figures for Scotland.

3. Tell consequences of action

A person should be told exactly and concrete terms what has been done or left undone and what the consequences were.
When you asked Lesley to take over while you were on holiday she was unable to answer most of my question about the changed production arrangements.

4. Identify behaviour changing possibility

The criticism should be directed at something the person has the possibility of changing in the future.
Please will you make sure to send your report by the last day in the month in future.
The person being criticised must be given the chance to express feelings and explain behaviour.

How to conduct the meeting (preparing for conflict)

Before the meeting

Arranging place and timing

Location should allow meaningful and respected discussion, with no interruptions
Appointment should not coincide with a period of great work urgency
Give sufficient notice for sound preparation
Allocate sufficient time to do the occasion justice

Manager considers the needs of the job

Decide the real priorities
Recall if there have been changes in targets, methods and/or people
Determine whether different or extra knowledge or skill are needed

Manager considers the employee’s achievements and needs

Recall the general performance level during the period
Recollect details of any highlights/lowlights in performance
Consider if employee needs more knowledge or increased skill and recall any other known need
Prepare some key points to make and key questions to ask

At the meeting

The manager

Give due recognition for good outcomes in performance and put shortfalls in context of the total job
Keep in mind that the purpose of performance review is to move towards improvement in job performance and personal attributes, hopefully on a joint basis
Remain watchful for reactions of any kind to all that happens at the meeting and then respond appropriately. Keep a firm grip on own emotions

Dealing with conflict

If conflict does arise, it needs attention. This means that one should have already considered what one’s reaction should be. The following are some of the countermeasures you can deploy

  • Hostility must not be ignored; it must be dealt with
  • Don’t fall into the trap of responding with an emotional reaction
  • Listen attentively and show you are doing so
  • Listen open-mindedly; this comes through to the other party
  • Keep control of your own features, smile when you can
  • Make frequent eye contact
  • Control your body language, for example, don’t tense up
  • Show you appreciate the importance on the issue to the other person
  • Use the other person’s name quite often
  • Be courteous and friendly and control your voice
  • Let the other person see that you expect normal behaviour
  • Analyse the true cause of conflict and apologise, if appropriate. If not, don’t
  • Gently, but firmly, get back to any unfinished business
  • Don’t let the meeting end on a bad note

Finally, if after reasonable attempts you cannot get the hostile party back to normal behaviour, defer the meeting to another occasion. This delivers a message to the effect that both the outstanding business and the breakdown in communication will still be addressed. After all, you as the appraiser are, or will be, in ultimate control.

Suggestions for response to the appraisal scenarios

  1. Do not dismiss out of hand. Ask questions; explain reasons; avoid vague promises; and be direct and honest. Use open questions, e.g. “Why does it interest you?” “Which aspects of the work could you/do you do at present?” “How will you get the additional knowledge and skills?” The appraiser could map out a schedule for change, perhaps over a considerable time, or give a clear statement of the reasons why the promotion is not possible.
  2. Dismiss/ignore irrelevant comments and probe for reasons. Keep to the point. Do not justify; do not get involved in an argument; set quantified objectives and devise a plan for measuring them. Question the interviewee’s views as to the effect of his/her behaviour and the benefits of an improvement.
  3. Respect her right to be her own self. Support your statements with examples. Use open questions to find out what problems she is having. Give practical examples of why you think she is doing well.
  4. Dismiss/ignore irrelevant comments. Avoid justification or argument, be honest and direct, support with examples, avoid vague promises. Use open questions to find out what is wanted and why. Work together with the interviewee on a plan for future development.

Performance Appraisal Training Courses

When it comes to employee performance appraisals, setting SMART objectives and giving constructive feedback are essential skills for any manager and our appraisal training courses show delegates how to carry out appraisal and performance reviews successfully.

Course Dates

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Who will benefit from the course?

Our appraisal training seminars enable delegates to understand the processes which will make them more effective and increase their confidence and sense of achievement. Anyone who needs to master the principles and practices of an effective performance review; including senior/junior managers, supervisors, training/hr managers, directors, administrative and technical staff.

What will delegates learn?

  • how to structure the interview
  • how to build rapport and relax the appraisee
  • how to avoid appraisal pitfalls
  • how to praise and criticise constructively
  • how to pre-empt and handle difficult situations
  • how to complete the appraisal form clearly and objectively
  • how to ensure great performance is maintained after the appraisal

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