It may help if you remind your employees that such evaluations are part of everyone’s job; even the CEO’s job performance is assessed.
A more concrete step is to involve the employee in the assessment early on, before appraisal interviews and before you present the employee with the goals against which his or her performance will be measured. Involve the employee in creation of the goals or standards.
Write down the goals, then sit down with the employee to discuss the list. Even better, encourage some or all employees to come to the goal-setting meeting with their own objectives. Those closest to the work often know its goals as well or better than you do, and you do them honor by asking them to participate in setting yearly objectives. It can also be an excellent way to better engage indifferent workers in their jobs.
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It can also be an interesting exercise for both you and the employee to set objectives independently, then meet to compare and agree upon the final list. If an employee is way off base in what she thinks is important, you can discuss the misconceptions with her, clarifying your expectations of her. In the process, you can also discuss her job in the perspective of the bigger picture—the department or corporate mission.