Who’s Review Is It? 4 Realities of a Conversation Between Two People
Performance reviews are an interesting topic for first-line supervisors. Nothing evokes more outrage from someone more than a poorly handled review. And nowhere is the scene set for a potentially career-altering conversation than when boss and employee sit down for this process. From The Jersey’s perspective, reducing this to a clash of cultural paradigms may be over-simplifying the issue, but helps put things in perspective. A performance review is a moment in time where perception and expectation run smack into one another. Each of these terms are different depending on which side of the table you are sitting on, and what motivations brought you to the table in the first place.
Lets start with Conversation #1. Two people who don’t care unite to have no conversation about something neither attached any importance to resulting in nothing of value to anyone. Super. My sympathies to any organization that allows this to be the predominant conversation about performance. From a distance, it is hard trying to visualize a team that functions like this but rest assured, I wouldn’t buy whatever they are selling. From the perspective of the boss, there is zero effort spent on using the review process to ensure the team is connected up to the mission and vision of the organization. From the view of the team, there is not much self-awareness or feedback going on. Either this group’s office lacks a connection to the internet, or they are a silo of disconnected unjointed effort in which every man and woman is responsible for themselves and no one else. A fire drill ought to be a hoot in this office.
Conversation #2 can be about the same length of time but with radically different results. In this case, some poor idealistic naif blundered into a company of tools with pretty unrealistic expectations about leadership. In this case, they expected meaningful feedback on how well they were doing, where they could improve, and how they could help the team get where they are going. The boss, probably on their way to lunch, couldn’t summon even 10 minutes to share that info, and probably didn’t have it anyway. Our naif will become hardened pretty quickly and either get themselves into the “De-Committed” column before closing time, or follow their heart and start looking for a place that will honor the type of personality that sets high standards, and wants it all to mean something.
Conversation #3 is best described by what was heard rather than what was said. In this case, our intrepid employee walked away from this meeting wondering what the heck just happened. From their view, this meeting did not go like every other review they ever had. From the leader perspective, the first time someone got a realistic rating and review after perhaps years of neglect in this area often turns into an attack on the boss. “What do you mean I am not perfect? EVERY boss I ever had gave me great marks. You must hate me. If I suck, it’s because you are a bad leader”…and so on.
Conversation #4 is one that two busy committed people need to seriously focus on at the same level they give the rest of their efforts so as to avoid looking like the previous conversations. At face value, this is the desired block we all would like to fall into. However, high performing, committed people are often stretched in a variety of ways. The reviews of first-line supervisors themselves often don’t show up in this block in terms of outcomes precisely because they are so busy giving their all to their teams.
The Jersey’s bottom line – Whether reviewed or reviewer, this is where it all comes together. From a systems approach, these are the “diagnostic controls” in which the organization tracks systems goals, manages individual progress, and generally assures the team is aligned with the mission. Do not sell this short, even with high-performers. This is an opportunity to communicate on a small scale how the organization takes a look at itself – piece by piece, or through disjointed unconnected metrics to which no one connects.