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I occasionally find myself needing to evaluate peoples performance and I often struggle with giving feedback properly. I'm aware there are different methodologies for giving feedback; I'm looking to find a method that has some evidence in its favour that is a bit more reasoned than 'This appears to work' - does such a method exist?

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The sandwich is always a good way to go too, something good they did, followed by your criticism, followed by something else good – CLockeWork Jul 12 '13 at 11:51

1) make sure you prepare before the meeting. - gather company standards documents. - gather any documents from previous reviews. - review achievements and accomplishments over the period. - review any negatives or failures over the period. - list any factors that have affected performance. - list any extra efforts taken.

2) Listen. - Start off the meeting by listening.
- Ask multiple questions to put the employee at ease and to get them to open up. - For each of the main areas being evaluated ask the employee how they feel they did.

3) Give feedback. - Let the employee know, for each area, if they are exceeding, meeting or not meeting the standard expected. If they are not meeting standard(s) be specific about what is wrong, with specific examples, and how that can be changed. Listen carefully again to any objections or reasons that the employee feels are contributing to them not meeting the standard.

4) Set up the expected standard and outcomes for the next review. Make sure that you have set out the standards that you will give feedback about at the next review.

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In your listen phase, shouldn't questions try to avoid problematic areas or areas where the employee may not be doing well? If you cover all the areas, as you mention then there will eventually be some point or some question that will sound like you are trying to put the other person on the mat. This is not a really going to break the ice. – AsheeshR Jul 12 '13 at 1:16
AsheeshR - think I agree with Michael here. The individual should have a view of how they performed in each area so get that before you go into why your opinn is lower or higher - using specific examples. This is easiest in organisations with strong feedback culture as they will have had timely feedback anyway. – Rory Alsop Jul 12 '13 at 13:45

If you don't have a specific behavior change, there's no point in offering criticism. How do you identify and measure these behaviors and what level of change do you expect at a certain period of time? Establishing some sort of baseline is important. You can't say "you're late all the time" if the person is late once a week.

Also, there should be explicit consequences if this doesn't occur. You are doing this person a diservice by not letting him or her know exactly what the problem is and to what level you expect it to change. They should leave the meeting know exactly what they need to do or stop doing. This is what makes it constructive.

There should be other times to give feedback on over-all performance. Don't cloud the issue by spending too much time on the things they do well. It doesn't matter what you think of them in general. This isn't a popularity contest. You're not trying to make the person feel good or bad about themselves. There are specific things that need to change. Be clear and don't confuse the issue. Have an action plan and determine how you are going to follow-up on the progress.

There is an ocean of research on changing behaviors.

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I have seen way to many people leave a meeting where the manager used the sandwich technique (say something good, tell teh bad thing then say something else good) thinking they were fine when the manager was trying to tell them they had to change or get fired. If the behavior must change, the person needs to hear that specifically and not have it watered down with fake praise. If the person is doing well but needs a tweak, then the sandwich technique is fine, but when they are doing poorly, it just makes them think everything is OK. – HLGEM Jul 12 '13 at 18:39

It isn't clear from your question whether you are looking for guidance on an intermittent review process, or continuing performance improvement. In my world, "feedback" is for continuous performance improvement and a periodic performance review is a chance to step back and review progress over a period of time.

Feedback is always related to specific behavior, and is always focused on improvement in the future. Affirming feedback says "you did something good, keep doing it". Adjusting feedback asks for a change in behavior.

What I have learned about feedback is from a podcast called Manager Tools. Here is a link to a list of podcasts dealing with the topic of feedback: I recommend navigating to the end of that list (6 pages in) and working backwards to listen in order. Yes, there is a lot of material here, and in my experience it has been a priceless education in getting more from my team.

BTW, I've given up completely on the sandwich technique. What I saw happening was people hearing me start the first part, and then tensing for the "here it comes, what he really means is..." middle. Then they'd clearly be thinking about the middle part and not listening for the last part of the sandwich. If all they're listening to is the middle, there's no point in the outer bits.

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As an employee, I would like to be recognized for my efforts as an individual. Make sure you recognize each and everyone's efforts before becoming the 'bad guy'. Then, you'll be less of a bad guy, and more of a helping friend.

Also, an incentive to working 'better' will boost morale.

How about something like,

"Guys, we have done very well... We have, [list achievements]. However I want us to discuss how we can do better, especially because we want to meet the target, for the end-of-year Round-the-world trip! I am talking about these areas, [list areas for improvements]..."

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I just tell it to them directly. Don't waste time padding what you don't like. Tell them what you want to criticize and let them defend themselves so they don't feel unfairly criticized. Sandwiching helps too, but the praise should be something you've been meaning to say, not said for the sake of comforting the blow. People can smell fake praise and it becomes like salt in the wound.

Of course, be respectful.

"Sorry to say this, Bob, but your performance has been quite poor lately. I know you're preoccupied with your big wedding.. are you getting enough rest? Do you need any help with wedding arrangements?"

"This drawing I commissioned from you was not as good I expected. See, I picked you because I liked (so-and-so example) which you showed to me the other day. Could you do something more similar to that?"

"John, you seem to be missing a lot of deadlines. I like the attention to detail you put in your work, but if we don't meet a deadline, it all comes to naught. Perhaps you can try to sacrifice some of that to finish things faster. Done is better than perfect."

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According to Dan Pink, progress is the biggest motivating factor for anyone. With this in mind I would emphasize what they are doing better. Instead of saying how something is wrong, say how they can do it better. An example would be if you're a football coach and someone is wearing tennis shoes. Instead of saying "You're wearing the wrong shoes", you could say "You could outrun everyone with football shoes". That way it's like you're giving them a trade secret instead of a criticism.

People also like having a sense of autonomy and control. Focus on something they can actually change instead of something outside of their control. If you say "These last five reports came in late", well they can't go back in the past and make those reports come in on time. Speaking in the future tense and saying "These reports need to come in on time" is an actual choice they can make.

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