Here are the steps to wrap up a performance appraisal discussion effectively:
- Briefly summarize the entire conversation (review your core message).
- Discuss two or three areas of strength to be continued and enhanced.
- Review the most important area for immediate improvement.
- Explain the most important developmental need.
- Handle administrative mechanics.
- Schedule planning meeting.
- Congratulate (offer statement of hope) and close.
Tell Me More
After about forty-five minutes or so, both parties will start to realize that the major objectives of the performance appraisal discussion have been met and that it’s time to start wrapping things up. Here’s a script that will work in bringing the performance review meeting to a successful conclusion:
Now that we’ve reviewed the complete appraisal, Mary, let’s summarize the key points we’ve discussed. The most important thing I want you to remember about our discussion is . . . [Make a clear statement of the core message that you determined in preparing the individual’s appraisal.]
In reviewing the entire appraisal, there are two areas in which I think your performance has been outstanding. . . . [Describe two specific areas of strength that should be continued and enhanced in the upcoming year.]
There is also one area in particular that you need to immediately work on improving. That area is . . . [Describe the single most important weakness or improvement need in the employee’s performance and explain why improvement is necessary.]
Finally, when you think about your development plans for next year, the one area I’d like you to give some serious thought to is . . . [Discuss most important developmental need for the next year.]
That pretty well sums it up for me, Mary. Are there any other questions I can answer for you? [Answer any employee questions.]
As a final matter, it’s our policy to ask you to sign the performance appraisal to indicate that you’ve had a chance to read and understand it. If you’d like to add any comments, feel free to do so. [Give appraisal to employee to sign and cover any other administrative requirements.]
This session has been extremely valuable to me, Mary, and I’m sure it has been for you, too. I’ll look forward to discussing plans for next year on . . . [ Set a date for a performance planning meeting to discuss next year’s accountabilities and development plans.]
There’s no formal requirement that you identify two strengths and one problem and one development need. It does make the job manageable, however, and it also gives the individual a reasonable number of things to remember from the conversation. If the employee can walk away having clearly heard the core message and remember just a few strengths and needs for change, you’ve done a fine job.
It’s appropriate to close the meeting on a positive note, even if the performance appraisal rating was unacceptable and the core message was that immediate improvement is required or termination will follow swiftly. Even in a case such as this, it’s a good idea to end the meeting with a statement of hope that the problems will be corrected and the individual will return to the fold of good, solid performers.
Most companies’ performance appraisal procedures ask for the employee to sign a copy of the form to acknowledge that the person being reviewed has had a chance to review the form and discuss it with the supervisor. Most also provide a section for the individual to add comments to the form. Both of these are good ideas.
There is no reason that the employee should have to write her comments on the performance appraisal in the meeting with the manager sitting right there. Allow the individual some time—a couple of hours, a day or two—to think through her reactions and write the statement on the appraisal form.