The first and most important ingredient in managing performance is honesty. In order for a performance appraisal to have any benefit at all, managers and employees must be honest with each other and the process. Managers must candidly address not only the perceived shortcomings of the employee, but also the employer’s part in contributing to those shortcomings.

Managers must ask: “Does the employee still have the same duties and responsibilities she was assigned at the time of hire or since the previous appraisal?” This question is extremely important since so many companies are running lean and mean. Many support and collateral jobs have been eliminated. Others simply go unfilled. That means an employee may have absorbed responsibilities into their job that managers don’t even recognize.

This creep of responsibility is not always isolated to the employee’s company. A growing problem is that suppliers, vendors, and client organizations have shrunk and your employee may be assuming responsibilities for tasks formerly handled by another business in the supply chain. In addition, if your employee is doing a different job or the same one with different tasks, has he been adequately trained in order for the changes in her job? If not meeting expectations, is she unwilling to change or simply unable to carry out the position successfully?

The requirement to be honest applies as well to examining the purpose of the pending evaluation.  If the employee has performed in a substandard manner without prior comment, is the appraisal being used in lieu of progressive disciplinary action?  If so, even more care will be required in communicating inadequate performance to avoid the perception (not unreasonable, we would argue) that the evaluation process is simply being used as the first step on the road to termination.  As always, we think it appropriate to remind you that any disciplinary or remedial action should be conducted proximate in time to the performance or conduct you seek to correct.