Performance reviews, one of the most disliked managerial responsibilities, are difficult enough to do without personal bias getting in the way. The DISC behavioral profile is an excellent tool to help managers understand how their personal preferences might cloud objectivity and be misinterpreted by their employees.
(For those who need a refresher on what each of the four DISC styles are, click here.)
High D Style
The high D prefers to evaluate others by how well they meet the standards and challenges set forth by the “D.” They tend to set stretch goals. They set demanding standards for themselves and will expect others to perform in the same style. However, their patience is short when employees don’t do what was expected. They get even more competitive when people surpass them. When an employee isn’t doing well, high Ds don’t have much problem relaying bad news and discipline. But their sometimes abrupt, just-get-it-over-with behavior comes off as confrontational, more than constructive feedback, even when what they had to say needed to be said. You’ll often hear others respond, “I agree with what he said, but not how he said it.” Some high Ds (especially if combined with the low I style) may even send a memo or email telling an employee they’re not pulling their weight or even that they’re fired. Accolades and positive reinforcement are rare – “there is always room for improvement.” Coaching will be limited to “just go do it and keep me posted.”
High I Style
High Is tend to evaluate others by how well they verbalize emotions and feelings. They see performance reviews more as a time to talk about doing better and motivating employees rather than a time to confront underperformance. They are the most prone to the Halo effect. High Is prefer a face to face meeting, often times in a casual setting. They may even schedule a difficult meeting over lunch. Telling an employee bad news is extremely difficult for the high I; they may tend to beat around the bush before telling an employee what needs to be said. High Is tend to set optimistic goals, even unrealistic, because it never hurts to dream. That’s a big difference between Ds and Is. Ds set stretch goals and are disappointed when they miss them; Is set stretch goals and applaud themselves and others for the valiant effort. While high Is might enjoy their cordial presentation and letting under-performing employees down easy, other behavioral styles will likely be thinking, “why don’t you just say it and stop talking already?” Because of their engaging, optimistic tone, high Is are often great coaches. But most coaching sessions will be more talk than action, with the coach doing most of the talking.
High S Style
If any managerial style is challenged by performance reviews, it’s the high S. Performance reviews are truly times to acknowledge contributions of the employee and identify areas of improvement. Those characteristics fit the S manager well. But high Ss will likely be the most lenient managers. They prefer stability to change. Disciplining or terminating an employee is very stressful and requires change if the employee leaves or needs to be replaced. The high S may not sleep well the night before an evaluation and is especially drained after the meeting. They will bend over backwards to accommodate under-performance, and hope the employee will quit before they have to confront them again. High Ss tend to set realistic goals – why set goals you can’t reach, it’s risky, confrontational and demoralizing. High Ss are also the very best listeners and natural coaches of all the styles.
High C Style
For the high C, performance evaluations are rather “matter of fact.” Their reviews are well-documented, detailed, and critical but objective. Results, accuracy, and cognition get high ratings. The high C is most susceptible to the horn effect. If the top rating is a 5 for outstanding performance, high “C”s rarely give higher than a “4” – “there is always room for improvement”, they think. (The D too is stingy with the higher rating but does so because he feels that will inspire employees to try harder; Cs give lower ratings just because no one is perfect.) Goals are specific and measurable with exact milestones. They will be realistic and at least in the high Cs mind, attainable. High Cs set a very high standard and how you reach your goals is just as important as getting the result. Ongoing feedback will be rare but when provided, the high C will consider it constructive, although skeptical. Unfortunately the recipients might perceive it as critical.