With effective performance appraisal methods in place, your performance evaluations needn’t make employees feel bad about themselves. When an employee fails to meet expectations, he or she hasn’t failed as a person, nor does that failure reflect on who he or she is as a person. As the person providing feedback to employees, remind them of this and take the personal side of things out of it by focusing your feedback on their behaviors.

Example: Terry often repeatedly arrives to a weekly meeting about 15 minutes late, and the meeting cannot begin without her, so the group never completes its full agenda.

Person-based feedback: “Terry, you’re consistently late, and the group is really tired of how inconsiderate you are.”

Behavior-based feedback: “Terry, in the past 3 weeks, you have twice arrived at least 10 minutes late to our weekly meeting. Because we cannot begin the meeting without you, that waiting time has prevented us from completing all of our tasks. The group requires all of its members, including you, to be on time every week. If I can help you remove some of the obstacles to being on time, I want to help you succeed by doing that.”

The first example focuses on Terry as a person, not on her behavior. Terry may feel attacked or disengaged by this kind of message. Further, when people believe their abilities (like the ability to be on time or behave considerately) are fixed and stable, they rarely make an effort to change them.

In the second example, Terry is provided an example of a specific failure in behavior that can be solved. She sees how this failure threatens the group’s performance. Instead of ostracizing her from a group who considers her inconsiderate, this form of feedback more likely reminds her of her commitment to the group and her interest in its success.

Using behavior-based performance appraisal methods allow you to serve as a messenger or reporter who simply relays information rather than serve an accuser or judge who must issue an indictment about someone. By clearly stating the expectation, and how the behavior failed to reach that expectation, you can remove the people from the equation and focus the conversation on behavior that can be fixed.

Using behavior-based feedback is one method of avoiding some of the stress of performance evaluations and similar conversations that play a crucial role in creating a culture of accountability.

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