Fear in the OfficeIt’s that time again. In troop your staff with their rehearsed speeches. There you sit, headache tablets to hand. Careers coach Lucinda Harlow explains how to see further than the dreaded tick boxes…

Appraisal time is here again and you know exactly what to expect from your staff.

It’ll be crunch time for the troublesome employee who winds you up with his or her lack of oomph…

You can be fairly sure someone is going to moan about the lack of career development…

Lots will want more money when there’s no more to give…

And every last one of them will sit there pretending to listen until you pause for breath and they can launch into their own agenda.

Exhausting, isn’t it?

Why appraisals fail

They fail because they are stage-managed and so never really get to the truth. You have to ask your employee what the company form tells you to and you have to record their answers – which, let’s be honest, are usually a pack of lies.

Armed and ready with your list of annoyances you try and wheedle the truth out of the cunning foxes and find out they reply from the handbook of model employees.

What ought to be a continuation of a conversation that happens regularly and informally in the office becomes a game of trying to catch them out.

No wonder everyone feels so tense.

How to make appraisals work

So given that we all admit they’re a bit of a nightmare but have to do them anyway, what’s the best strategy for you as the boss in the big chair?

Here’s the thing – you do have the power to change the process despite needing to tick all those boxes. It can and should be a focused and productive hour. And the golden rule? Be honest with them or they won’t be honest with you.

The ABC of running an effective appraisal

A. Stop trying to get your employee to ‘fess up’

Don’t start the appraisal by pushing your employee into admitting to failings. Make it a conversation not an interrogation. You have a problem with his or her lack of initiative? Then state that straight out and have a few examples. Ask big questions and listen to the answers. You need to understand.

B. Ask the right questions

These are the unexpected ones designed to get the little grey cells working. Try kicking off with these.

  • When you retire what will you want to say about your career?
  • If you had a totally free hand, what would you do in your role?
  • What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

C. Winkle out what really sends them to work

Find out what really motivates the person sitting in front of you. Money? Well okay, but why’s that? Do they want a bigger house, a new car, a walk-in wardrobe, fabulous holidays, nursing home fees… or just enough to pay the bills? Find out what lies behind that need and keep peeling back like layers of an onion. If money equates to prestige for them, then your job is to find out ‘the why’.

And D is for… Don’t Stop

When my clients follow my advice they’re relieved at how much angst disappears from the whole appraisal process. That’s when I order them to keep up the good work. Don’t wait until the next round – make appraisals a continual process of tracking your staff’s goals and providing the right support all year round.


About the author

Lucinda is an Executive and Corporate Coach. You can reach Lucinda on: uevolve, LinkedIn, Twitter

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