A strong employee performance review process can generate various positive results for workers and businesses alike, including stronger relationships based on fair recognition for people's achievements and clear professional development plans.
However, there's also a risk of these events leading to negative outcomes, such as disputes between managers and staff stemming from disagreement over the conclusions of an assessment.
It's important to be prepared for this scenario and to have a plan of action in case an employee takes issue with their latest performance appraisal.
Let the employee speak (but don't get sucked into a debate)
It's important that employees feel they're being given a fair opportunity to speak their minds and put forward their side of the story. If you don't give them this chance, they’ll feel marginalized or ignored, which will add more friction to the relationship and make it harder to find a resolution.
However, you should also bear in mind that there's little to be gained from constantly going over the same issues and getting into a debate over who's 'right' and who's 'wrong'. It's not the manager's job to make the case for a poor performance review to their direct reports, nor is it a good use of anyone's time.
Instead, recognize the employee's concerns, acknowledge that there's disagreement over the conclusions of their appraisal, and focus on how you can move forward and help them make the improvements you're looking for before their next evaluation.
Offer the option of a written reply
You can go a step further in making sure workers have a platform to express their feelings by giving them the option to submit a written reply to their performance appraisal.
There are a number of reasons why this can be useful, including showing the employee that you take their concerns seriously and you want to have a written record of their input. This is a good way of legitimizing their contributions and including them in the process, without getting caught up in repetitive verbal exchanges.
Furthermore, asking the worker to put their thoughts down on paper can make it easier for you to get to the root cause of their dissatisfaction. When someone is given the time to express themselves in writing, it can lead to greater clarity and detail than you might be able to achieve in a face-to-face conversation.
Bring in a third party
If you're struggling to move on from a disagreement over a bad performance review, or you're facing accusations of unfair treatment, the next step could be to bring in an impartial third party to review the case.
An experienced HR representative, for example, will be able to take an unbiased look at what has transpired so far, in an effort to draw conclusions such as:
- Whether the employee has a legitimate complaint
- If there are any indications of unfair or prejudicial treatment
- If the conclusions in the performance review are supported by evidence and data
A mediator who’s looking at the situation with a fresh pair of eyes might be able to suggest new solutions and approaches that haven't been tried yet. They could also be better placed to have a calm and reasonable discussion with the employee about their worries and what might be the best way to move forward.
Be clear and specific with ongoing feedback
One possible cause of disagreement with staff is giving unclear feedback, and not being specific enough when talking to people about what you hope and expect to see from them in the workplace.
When you're attempting to move on from a disputed evaluation, it's crucial to be precise and methodical in the information you provide to the employee.
Explain exactly what they need to do, and how their performance needs to change to achieve better results in their next review. You might also want to go into detail about why you think they're currently falling short of these standards, to ensure there's context and data to support your statements.
Maintain regular communications
Another common reason for an employee to disagree with their performance review is if the nature of the conversation comes as a surprise to them.
If an employee thinks they've been doing a good job, only to discover during an appraisal that their manager believes quite the opposite, they might feel shocked and caught off guard. This will raise the likelihood of them being less than receptive to the outcomes of their evaluation.
This disconnect between employee and manager opinions is likely the result of poor communication and could suggest there are flaws in your approach to delivering employee feedback.
Moving forward, you can reduce the risk of disagreements occurring again with the same person, as well as other members of staff, by staying in regular contact and taking every opportunity to share your observations on how they're performing.
The provision of regular, relevant and constructive feedback is a crucial part of the employee experience, and can help you build strong, lasting relationships with your workforce.