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6 Tips for Better Performance Meetings

Posted by Julie • October 24, 2013 (Last modified June 1, 2022) • 3 min read

For many organizations, the end of the year means Performance Appraisal time! Employee appraisals are scored, meetings are held and new goals are set for the coming year.

If it’s that time of year for your organization, it may also mean that managers might appreciate a few tips on how to have performance conversations with employees, and make those performance meetings easier (perhaps even awesome!) and definitely less stressful.

Performance Conversations with Employees:

  1. Prior to the performance meeting, suggest that employees come prepared to talk about 2-3 accomplishments they may be proud of for the Appraisal period.  Then, throughout the the meeting, play off of the accomplishments as you discuss how to improve other areas. “The same way you did such-n-such to help project ABC succeed might be a way to look at issue XYZ.” You’ll be reinforcing positive behavior and offering constructive feedback for improvement, all at the same time. 
  2. Set the right tone for the meeting. Remember that most of your employees are likely doing good work, if not great work.  Don’t let the difficult conversation you must have with a certain person overshadow the celebrations you’ll have with everyone else.
  3. Focus on your own communication skills during the meeting. Have you ever seen the parabolic microphones used to capture sound on the sidelines of an NFL game? Imagine that’s you, and the mental image will help you be a better listener.  Be aware of your posture during the performance meeting. Keep your shoulders straight, use gentle hand gestures and have open facial expressions. And, in today’s digital world, remember that it’s polite to silence your cell phone and to check email after the meeting.
  4. Be sure you’ve set expectations early and often.  That means that employees should be aware of their job description, goals and the competencies for which they are responsible prior to the meeting (and by prior, I mean they should know what’s expected a year in advance, so they’ve had time to work towards the expectations.)  If you haven’t been able outline expectations, it’s not optimal, but you can recover. Do it at this year’s meeting, acknowledge the gap, and use the meeting to set expectations for next year. Remember your parents taught you “there’s no use crying over spilled milk.” 
  5. If you need to have a difficult conversation, just do it.  Keep your tone flat and describe your perceptions of what’s going on with “I” messages (I need you to do this and what I believe is happening is that. I’m going to need to see change.) You’ll do yourself a favor and the employees a favor by putting the issues on the table.
  6. Before having a potentially difficult conversation, decide if you really need to have it.  You may reflect upon the issue and realize the issue is really your own, or your own positive action may create a more favorable environment anyway, or your level of frustration needs time to cool.

Good luck!

Make Work Matter.