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Performance reviews without pain

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The new year can present an uncomfortable task for HR managers, who may find themselves having to say the following to underperforming employees: “Happy holidays; you’re doing a terrible job.”

No credible HR manager would be so blunt with a worker, but near the end of the year, when many companies typically do performance reviews, managers must know how to present good and bad news. Experts offer the following advice:

Provide enough warning during the year so a critical review doesn’t come as a shock to an employee. “A negative review should never come as a surprise,” said Mike Maughan, project market manager at Qualtrics 360, which sells data programs to help companies track and assess worker performance. “If it does come completely out of the blue, the manager is probably doing a poor job of handling his or her people.”

The classic “sandwich” approach still works. If you have to give criticism, deliver it in between upbeat opening and closing remarks, advised Lori Kleiman, a speaker and an author who formerly owned an HR consulting firm. Just “don’t lose the [negative] stuff in the middle. You’ve still got to hit hard.”

Let the employee set the time and date for the review. That one small gesture means workers “immediately have a sense of power. When we feel we’re in control, we’re more likely to listen to feedback,” said Stephen Balzac, president of the organizational development firm 7 Steps Ahead and author of Organizational Psychology for Managers (Springer, 2014).

Make the review a two-way conversation, and the goal future good performance. That means not having anyone else in the room, letting workers weigh in on their own performance and allowing them to participate in any improvement plan. Sometimes, the manager may not know about issues distracting an employee, such as a chatterbox co-worker, Kleiman said. Or perhaps the worker needs a mentor or extra training to improve.

It’s best for HR managers to “stay action-oriented and focus on the steps that the manager and employee can take to better align performance with expectations,” said China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work and former COO of the Society for Human Resource Management. “We all have a tendency to dwell on the negative; taking whatever steps we can to help employees assimilate the feedback and move forward will help minimize negativity.”

Be mindful of dealing with Millennials, who might have different expectations. Those belonging to this so-called trophy generation (they got Little League trophies even when they lost the championship game) like receiving feedback and actually want it more than once a year, Gorman noted. As for the formal review, it’s best to “keep it casual,” she said. “At the risk of stereotyping, this is a generation that is not a huge fan of authority. You may have better success if you approach the conversation as a coach, rather than as a boss.”

Be ready to handle pushback and emotional reactions. If someone refuses to sign a poor review, Kleiman said, the manager should invite a third party to enter the room, hear the employee acknowledge having heard the review, and then leave. Workers who cry or become emotional should be given the chance to leave the room and collect themselves before continuing the review.

And if you have to fire someone? First, do everything you can to avoid such drastic action, Kleiman recommended. “It’s a lot easier to save current employees than hire new ones,” she noted. But if termination is unavoidable, first take steps to ensure that the individual’s access to sensitive information is disabled, especially if the worker is in the IT, accounting or some other department where security is an issue.

Susan Milligan is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

©2014, Society for Human Resource Management.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).   

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March starts sit just below the million mark

BY HBSDEALER Staff

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000, housing starts failed to break the million mark again in March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

March’s rate is 2.8% above the upwardly revised February estimate of 920,000 — a 1.9% rise instead of the initially reported 0.2% decline — but 5.9% below year-ago levels of 1,005,000.

Single-family housing starts came in at a  rate of 635,000, which is 6.0% above the revised February estimate of 599,000.

Building permits presented a slightly rosier picture, with the rate for March weighing in at 990,000. That’s 2.4% below February’s 1,014,000 permits but 11.2% better than last year’s estimate.

March’s housing starts are below the expectations of many economists, who have attributed the recent weakness in the housing market to harsh winter weather conditions, labor and lot shortages, and cost of materials.

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Spectrum CEO named to Husqvarna board

BY HBSDEALER Staff

David R. Lumley, president and CEO of Spectrum Brands Holdings, has been elected to a one-year term on the nine-member board of directors of Husqvarna, the outdoor power products supplier.

Lumley, 59, has served as president and CEO of Spectrum Brands, a global and diversified consumer products company, since April 2010 and as a director since June 2010. He previously served as co-chief operating officer from January 2007 to April 2010. He was appointed president of the global batteries and personal care businesses in January 2007, and in October 2008 his responsibilities were expanded to include the home and garden business. Prior to that time, he was President, North America since joining Spectrum Brands in January 2006.

Lumley joined Spectrum Brands from Newell Rubbermaid where he had served as president, Rubbermaid Home Products North America since January 2004. 

Lumley has previously served on the board of directors of Outboard Marine Corporation, EAS, Inc., Naked Juice Company, and Botanic Oil Innovations, Inc. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing from Western Illinois University, a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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