Confidently conducting appraisal interviews - managementberatung | coaching
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6 min.

Personal development | Communication

Change of perspective - employee appraisals from the employee's point of view

From Anja Kluge

Perhaps your company will soon be having staff appraisals again or you are already in the middle of them. These conversations cause a bit of stress for the majority of those involved. In the role of the manager, you have to think carefully about what you want to say to your employees, but you also have to make an effort to listen carefully, to ask questions and to understand what is on the other person's mind. In the role of the employee, you are often curious about what you will hear. After we have already discussed in our article "Let's talk - staff appraisals: preparation, implementation, stumbling blocks". the perspective of the line manager, in this article we focus on the perspective of the employee - a change of perspective. Among other things, we answer the question: How do I prepare myself as an employee for an appraisal interview?

Due to the hierarchical relationship, many employees tend to slip into a passive role during the appraisal interviews. They listen to the feedback they receive, perhaps comment on it, are pleased or explain themselves. At the end, they may develop goals for the next year together with the manager. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to make the interview a dialogue at eye level.

But it is through dialogue at eye level that a truly valuable conversation can develop. Here are several tips on how you can also have a conversation in the role of an employee. Actively design and give feedback to your manager in a successful way:

How do I prepare for an appraisal interview as an employee?

1. The aim and focus of the conversation

It is advisable to prepare for staff appraisals. It is also best to read through the documentation of your last interview again. You can ask yourself these three questions in advance to be clear about how you want to use the time in the interview:

  • What do I want to achieve with the appraisal interview?
  • What topics do I want to address? 
  • What specific questions do I want to ask? 

This enables you to steer the conversation more specifically towards certain topics and issues. But the preparation goes further.

How do I prepare for an appraisal interview as an employee?

2. Reflection on one's own performance

As a rule, the core of the appraisal interview is that you receive feedback and that you think together about further development opportunities. So think about:

  • What went particularly well last year? Why?
  • What goals have you achieved and how?
  • What didn't go so well and why?
  • Which goals did you miss and why?
  • How well does your job match your strengths and areas of interest? 
  • What would you like to change there?
  • How does the cooperation with colleagues and, if applicable, clients work?
  • Where can and do you still want to grow?
  • What are you willing to invest in your further development? Where do you need the support of your manager or the company?

With the help of the previous questions, you can prepare yourself for your manager's feedback and also put your own honest feedback next to it. It is then exciting to see where you agree and where you disagree.

How do I behave as an employee in the appraisal interview?

3. Behaviour during interview

Many employees worry about how to behave in the appraisal interview. Therefore, the most important tip in advance: be authentic. Show yourself as you are. With good preparation, you will have structured your thoughts. Of course you can use your notes. This is a good way to keep the conversation on track. Give reasons for your own assessment, ask open questions to understand the supervisor's point of view.

  • "Why did you rate me like that?"
  • "What exactly are you basing that on? "
  • "What specifically do you want from me?
  • "What would I have had to accomplish to get a one-point better score on this rubric?"

After you have received feedback, you have the opportunity to give feedback to your manager. We give tips to make this a success.

How do I give feedback to my boss?

4. Feedback to the manager

Many employees are afraid to give their manager feedback or even to say what bothers them because they fear negative consequences. Those who dare to do so often have very positive experiences.

Opportunities for supervisor feedback

  • You have the opportunity to make a difference if you address it.
  • Many managers are grateful when they receive feedback. Because: The higher the position, the rarer the feedback.
  • There is a chance that open and constructive feedback will make the relationship between you and your manager more trusting.

Preparation of the feedback

What would you like to say to your manager? Below are some trigger questions for you:

  • What do I value in my leader?
  • What do I like about their leadership?
  • What is going well in our cooperation?  
  • Where do I want changes in the leadership behaviour of my leader and why? Why is it also beneficial for the leader to comply with the wish and change his/her behaviour?
  • Where do misunderstandings, conflicts or frustration occur?
  • What concrete examples do you have to underline your observations?

Always consider whether the leader also has influence on the issues you mention. If so, the chances of success increase.

Feedback rules

What is the best way to formulate feedback to your manager? Feedback rules are helpful with any feedback, whether professional or private. So take the following principles to heart:

What is the aim of the feedback? Do you want to get rid of anger or change something? If you want to change something, you should relate your feedback to things that the feedback recipient can influence, for example his or her behaviour. In order for the receiver to understand your feedback, it helps if you relate your feedback to concrete situations.

Furthermore:

  • Attitude: The feedback recipient is part of the solution.
  • Formulate I-messages instead of making accusations
  • Don't just report back critically, but also address positively.
  • Do not generalise ("always" and "never" must be avoided), but name concrete things.
  • Use clear language, leave out softeners such as "actually", "possibly", "maybe".

And now it's time for the concrete formulation, and as we all know, it's not what you say but how you say it. To avoid slipping into accusations, it is best to use a tried and tested model from Nonviolent communication (cf. Marshall Rosenberg). The core elements of this model are "observations", "feelings", "needs" and "requests". How do you now embed these core elements into a complete conversation?

Feedback conversation structure

  1. Starting the conversation and getting consent
    I'd like to give you some feedback too. May I?
  2. Describe observation
    I noticed yesterday / in this situation , ...
  3. Feelings
    That made me feel irritated / astonished / pleased ... (name feeling)
  4. Needs
    For future situations I would like / I need ....
  5. Open to dialogue
    How do you see it / What are your thoughts on it? / To what extent can you understand this?
  6. Positive conclusion of the conversation
    Thank you for listening to me. / Thank you for taking my wish into consideration.

Perhaps this conversation structure may be a little unusual at first or still sound unnatural to your ears. If you practise this structure and use your own words, the feedback will come more and more easily to your lips. Why not try out the feedback structure in private so that you feel more confident talking to your manager from the start?

Conclusion: Giving feedback

Formulating your feedback in such a way that your counterpart can also accept it well will help you in many situations in life. So now have fun trying it out and have good conversations. 

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