Listen to determine the source of the disagreement. Is it a matter of fact? (You wrote that the employee received a customer satisfaction score of seventy-nine, but the employee says that his score was eighty-three.) Or is it a matter of judgment? (You wrote that the employee’s customer service skills were unsatisfactory, but she feels that her skills are terrific.) If it’s an issue of fact, get the facts and make any corrections necessary. If it’s a matter of judgment, ask the employee for additional evidence. Then determine whether that evidence is sufficient to cause you to revise your judgment. It rarely is.
Tell Me More
Most of the time, the appraiser has a reasonably good understanding of the areas where disagreements are likely to pop up in the course of the appraisal discussion. Before beginning the appraisal discussion, ask yourself, ‘‘What am I going to say when George disagrees that his performance on the Lumumba project just barely met expectations?’’
Start with your higher ratings and move toward the lower ones. Be prepared to give additional examples besides the ones you’ve included on the formal written appraisal. Refer back to the informal conversations you have had with the individual over the course of the year.
Use active listening as soon as a disagreement pops up. For example, phrases such as ‘‘Tell me more . . .’’ or ’’What else can you share with me about that?‘‘ or ’’Really?‘‘ can encourage people to talk more about their perceptions. Simply nodding without saying anything at all encourages people to expand on what they have said. It’s not at all unlikely that the employee, allowed a sufficient chance to think aloud about what you have written, will end up saying, ’’Yeah, I guess I see what you mean.‘‘
Remember what your objective in the discussion is—and what it isn’t. Your objective in a performance appraisal discussion is not to gain agreement. It is to gain understanding. If the employee agrees with you, that’s great. But particularly if your appraisal is a tough-minded assessment of the fact the Charlie’s contribution was only mediocre, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get him to agree. What you want is for him to understand why you evaluated his performance the way you did, even if his personal opinion is different.
If you haven’t had ongoing, informal performance discussions with the individual over the course of the appraisal period, then it’s very likely that disagreements will surface during the review. That’s another good reason for scheduling periodic, ‘‘how’s it going?’’ discussions with each person on your team.