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How Should I Start The Meeting?

The employee I’m about to review is an unsatisfactory performer and the appraisal tells it like it is. How should I start the meeting?

Get right to the point. As soon as the person arrives for the appraisal discussion, say, ‘‘Come in, George, sit down. I have some bad news for you. (Pause.) I have your performance appraisal here and quite frankly, George, it isn’t very good.’’ Then give the individual a copy of the appraisal to read. As soon as he has read it, begin the discussion.

Tell Me More

Communications gurus always advise managers to set the proper tone for the meeting. That’s what you have just done in opening this meeting. You have advised the employee that the performance appraisal is not good and have prepared the individual for what he is about to read.

Being direct and candid right from the start is appropriate. There can’t be any mistaking the seriousness of the discussion and there’s little chance of misinterpretation.

Being blunt may seem cold-hearted or cruel. It’s not. It’s much crueler to allow a marginal performer to think that she’s doing okay when in fact her performance leaves much to be desired. If the manager isn’t blunt about her performance deficiencies, a host of problems may arise:

  • The employee’s marginal performance will drag down the overall contribution of her work group.
  • The employee will be less likely to be promoted or to be assigned to interesting projects. If an honest manager pointed out her limitations to her, she has the option of correcting her performance or moving to another job that she can handle successfully.
  • Others in the work group are likely to resent a laggard’s being given a free ride. They may reduce their output and commitment, since the organization is sending a clear message that it tolerates mediocre performance.
  • When the employee finally gets the ax, she’s much more likely to cry ‘‘Discrimination!’’ since she’s amassed a full drawer of satisfactory reviews.