The employee has one primary responsibility: Get the job done. There are, however, several others:
- Solicit performance feedback and coaching.
- Communicate openly with your appraiser on progress and problems in achieving objectives.
- Update objectives as conditions change.
- Complete the development plan.
- Keep track of achievements and accomplishments.
- Actively participate in the midterm review meeting.
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Solicit performance feedback and coaching. While the manager is responsible for providing performance feedback, the employee is also responsible for requesting it.
When Ed Koch was mayor of New York City, he would routinely walk the city’s streets, buttonhole residents, and ask, ‘‘How’m I doing?’’ New Yorkers had little reluctance to tell Koch exactly how they thought he was doing—sometimes terrific, sometimes terrible. But Koch wanted performance feedback on a more frequent basis than he got in the city’s mayoral elections every four years, so he simply went out and asked for it.
Communicate openly with your appraiser on progress and problems in achieving objectives. ‘‘No news is good news.’’ That’s not true if an organization is going to be effective. It’s important for employees to let managers know when they are running into obstacles, when deadlines are in danger, when customers aren’t happy. And it’s important for managers to respond appropriately when bad news is announced.
Early in his career, when he had just been named plant manager of a new General Electric plastics plant, Jack Welch blew the plant up when he was experimenting with a new chemical process. A spark set off an explosion and tore the roof off the plant. No one was injured, but the damage was massive.
The next day Welch had to drive to GE’s headquarters to explain himself and his mistake. ‘‘I knew I could explain why the blast went off and I had some ideas on how to fix the problem,’’ Welch said. ‘‘But I was a nervous wreck. My confidence was shaken almost as much as the building I had destroyed.’’
What Welch found wasn’t corporate wrath but an understanding, Socratic approach to analyzing what went wrong. His bosses’ concern was with what he had learned from the experience.
‘‘When people make mistakes the last thing they need is discipline. It’s time for encouragement and confidence building,’’ Welch later said in reflecting about the experience. ‘‘The job at this point is to restore self-confidence.’’
Update objectives as conditions change. The individual usually knows sooner than the manager does when an objective needs to be revised. Conditions change, other priorities interfere. Letting the manager know that a goal needs to be revised ensures the subordinate that she won’t be appraised against an objective that isn’t important or one that was abandoned months before.
Complete the development plan. Once the individual and the manager have agreed on the development plan, the individual is responsible for its successful execution. And just as it’s important to bring any changes in objectives to the manager’s attention, the individual is also responsible for letting her boss know about any significant changes in the development plan.
Keep track of achievements and accomplishments. Just as the boss is responsible for keeping track of how well people are doing and maintaining performance records, so individuals have a similar responsibility to maintain their own records of their hits and misses.
Many managers ask their subordinates to provide a list of their accomplishments at the start of the assessment phase of the performance management process. If the individual is diligent about keeping records of what he or she has accomplished over the course of the year, it will be easy to respond to this request.
Keeping good records of one’s own performance is also helpful in case there is a significant difference of opinion between the individual and the manager during the performance appraisal discussion. If the individual can point to a series of genuine accomplishments that the boss has overlooked in creating the performance review, the odds go up that she may be successful in negotiating an upward change in the final rating.
Actively participate in the midterm review meeting. If the manager conducts a midcycle review, individuals can get significant benefits by being able to find out exactly how their performance is perceived before it becomes a matter of formal record (and an element of the permanent personnel record) at the time of the final year-end review.