Performance Interviews

We All Need To Know Our Work Is Recognized And Appreciate Direction When It Comes From A Well-Meaning Mentor. 

By Thomas J. Roach

Many books and internet sites offer advice on job interviews, but employee review interviews are largely ignored. Obviously, strategies for interviewing and being interviewed are of primary importance. However, the average employee stays at a job for four years, so employee evaluation interviews should outnumber selection interviews, and if the selection interview turns up a bad hire, it is the evaluation interview that corrects the problem. 

The biggest concern with employee evaluation interviews is that they don’t happen with enough regularity. A monthly employee review process is ideal because it creates an ongoing dialogue between employee and supervisor, and monthly meetings make it is easier for the supervisor to keep track of the ebb and flow of employee effort. 

Reviews at six-month intervals tend to focus mostly on the previous month. Yearly employee review is probably even less well documented and more likely to over-focus on areas needing improvement, leaving out reward and recognition for all the little accomplishments that make up the bulk of employee contributions. In the worst-case scenario, there is no performance review; employees are frustrated because they feel no one notices their efforts, and supervisors are frustrated because problems don’t get addressed. 

Performance Evaluation 
Performance evaluation meetings need to be required of all managers, and their record of compliance should be monitored. Surveys reveal that most managers hate conducting performance reviews, so their compliance with this job requirement should be built into their own performance appraisals. Evaluation meetings need to take place at least every six months. In most cases the title manager means manager of people, and the employee review is the main forum for that responsibility. Supervisors who fail to do this should be reassigned. 

The review session should be a relaxed, two-way conversation with a one- or two-hour time frame. Depending on the business culture, this could take place over lunch or in a conference room to avoid the pressure inherent when the two parties sit on either side of the boss’s desk.

In some ways the performance review is an extension of the hiring interview. The format is asking and answering of questions, and the objective for each party is to understand one another’s needs and abilities. The supervisor needs are the work assignments, and the employee needs are the resources and time provided by the supervisor. 

The performance review is different from the hiring interview when it comes to reward and recognition. Instead of probing to find out how a job applicant might perform, the supervisor has observed actual performance and can provide feedback. 

Supervisors should provide feedback on accomplishments for three important reasons. 

  • One, an emotional debt is created when one person performs a service for another, and there is a tacit requirement that the recipient will show appreciation. 
  • Two, it is just as important for the supervisor to encourage the employee to continue good work habits as it is to correct problematic ones. 
  • Third, it is easier for the supervisor to discuss inadequate performance if it is mixed with praise for exceptional or at least passible performance. 

A work list should be drawn up by the subordinate and sent to the supervisor prior to the meeting. The list can be broken down into three categories: work completed since the last review, work in progress, and work to be started. 

The list becomes the agenda for the meeting and makes navigating through the discussion a more manageable task for the supervisor. The work list ensures that the supervisor doesn’t forget to acknowledge employee accomplishments and provides an opportunity to prioritize current projects and tasks.

Everyone with management responsibilities benefits from a review meeting. From the CEO meeting with the chairperson of the board to hourly employees meeting with line managers, we all need to know our work is recognized and appreciate direction when it comes from a well-meaning mentor. 

Thomas J. Roach Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Northwest since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected].