How Am I Doing?

You’ve been on the job for 2 weeks, or 6 months, or a year, or maybe 10 years. What question have you been asking yourself no matter how long you’ve been on the job? You are probably asking “How am I doing?”

You want to retain your star employees right? Performance evaluations can help you accomplish that goal. Employees are people, and people, in general, want to feel appreciated and know that they are contributing to a winning team.

Performance evaluations sometimes get a bad rap. The purpose of a performance evaluation is to help someone improve and contribute to the success of the organization. It is not a tool to beat people over the head. If you go into a performance evaluation with the objective of helping the person improve, regardless of whether or not that person stays at your company, then it can be a great tool. If used poorly, it can be highly demoralizing.

People want to know how they are doing, and that doesn’t mean just once a year. If someone did a particularly good job that day or on that project, say something. If you wait until the annual review and say, “Thanks, Alice, for that nice job you did six months ago,” it loses value, and Alice may not even remember what she did. Similarly, if a person messed up it presents a coaching opportunity that should be done immediately and with the attitude of helping the person improve.

Recognize accomplishment when it occurs, but make sure it is deserved. Recognition for achievement shouldn’t be confused with acknowledgment of a person, attention to their needs, and encouragement. Recognition for non-achievement is not encouragement, and it can result in discouragement. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how a performance evaluation can demotivate.

When I was in the army, there was a detailed performance evaluation system. Hopefully, it is different today. I don’t remember most of what was on the multi-page questionnaire except for two questions, and I vividly remember both.

First, the evaluator was asked to give you a percentile rating relative to all other people in that grade (rank). The lowest percentage I ever got was 95 percent, which meant that I was rated higher than 95 percent of all the first lieutenants. It’s a ridiculous process when you think about it. The evaluator couldn’t possibly know all the other first lieutenants in the army, so how could he assign a percentage rating to anyone? One captain gave me a 100 percent. Woohoo! I was now the best first lieutenant in the whole U.S. Army, all over the world! The next question was the real de-motivator: Would you …

  1. a) promote this person ahead of his contemporaries?
  2. b) promote this person along with his contemporaries?
  3. c) hold this person back from promotion?

I was rated as one of the top in my grade in the whole army. How do you think everyone who evaluated me answered the second question? That’s right—promote this person along with his contemporaries. Why bother to excel if there is no reward?

One day my boss called me in and told me I had been promoted to senior accountant. Naturally, I was pleased and excited. He then proceeded to tell me that at this level more would be expected of me. “Great!” I said. “I’m ready. What is expected of me?” “More.” Yes, but “more” of what? He never could tell me. I don’t know about you, but I can’t hit a target I don’t have.

Having  the  Conversation

Why don’t more managers meet regularly with employees to thank them or deal with issues? Often it is because most people don’t like confrontation or conflict. If you let a wound fester it will become infected and now the problem is much worse.

Counseling sessions are an opportunity to get to know your employees’ personalities and a great opportunity to discuss weaknesses, strengths, and goals. They should be in private without interruption, allowing you to provide the employee with quality time with you. There should be value taken from the meeting concerning both of you.

  1. Initially discuss  employee’s  personal  life,  hobbies,  and  inter


  1. Opportunity: Where do you desire them to improve? Give clear guidance Give them the opportunity to ask questions. Discuss one opportunity at a time.


  1. Strengths: Discuss areas you are happy with, and let them know you have recognized their performance


  1. Ask for ideas and suggestions for how the company can improve You might hear a few gems.

5. Explain your vision on the future of the company and where the employee fits i In other words, what could their future be with the company?


  1. Ask if they have any questions about anything.


First, put the person at ease and establish a rapport. Let them know you care about and are interested in them. Then discusses opportunities for them to improve. Takes the positive approach of “how can I help you?” Then move on to recognizing their strengths and contribution to the organization.

Understand that people won’t open up to you until they trust you. Building trust takes time and occurs when people realize that what they say won’t be held against them. If they open up and make a suggestion, take it into consideration. Ask them how it might be implemented and how it would benefit the company. You can’t implement every suggestion you get, but you can acknowledge and appreciate every suggestion. Also, you should be able to give a reason why that suggestion can’t be implemented but don’t tell them no at that time. Consider their idea for a while and, when you have a logical, well-reasoned explanation, go back and talk with them.

Finally, reiterate to the person the organization’s vision and how that person fits in its future growth. It is also an opportunity to communicate the company’s fundamental purpose, values, and operating principles.

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