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Sentences Managers Shouldn't Use During One To One Meetings

Brunette holding hers hands over her mouth.

We all know how valu­able reg­u­lar one-on-one per­for­mance dis­cus­sions are — but if you say the wrong things, you could dis­en­gage even the most ded­i­cat­ed employees

You have prob­a­bly read arti­cles on the ben­e­fits of reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions. If so, you will be aware of the fact that many large com­pa­nies, such as Adobe and Microsoft, have aban­doned their year­ly per­for­mance appraisal for more fre­quent check-ins. But what you should always keep in mind is it’s not only the quan­ti­ty of meet­ings that is impor­tant; it’s the qual­i­ty and the con­tent, too.

The best man­agers know what to say in order to inspire and moti­vate their team. They lis­ten and they encour­age, with­out judg­ing or los­ing their tem­per. It’s not an easy job and it needs prac­tice. Being a leader takes a lot of hard work and per­sis­tence, but they are ulti­mate­ly able to unite their teams and achieve com­pa­ny goals. How­ev­er, when man­agers are care­less, their words can do seri­ous dam­age, lead­ing to a drop in engage­ment, dis­cre­tionary effort, and morale.

There are many ways to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing a per­for­mance man­age­ment review, as well as a num­ber of dif­fer­ent man­age­ment styles to suit a wide range of per­son­al­i­ty types. But regard­less of how you choose to lead or moti­vate, you should always refrain from using sen­tences that are…

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Emo­tion­al or over­ly per­son­al — try to keep per­for­mance man­age­ment reviews objective

When you use sen­tences that begin with phras­es such as I feel” or in my opin­ion”, employ­ees will jus­ti­fi­ably feel that the feed­back is sub­jec­tive and, there­fore, not entire­ly valid. To avoid debates, con­fu­sion or mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, always pro­vide fac­tu­al exam­ples when deliv­er­ing feed­back.

If you feel an employ­ee isn’t putting in suf­fi­cient effort, or you think a par­tic­u­lar employ­ee is under­per­form­ing, or you are con­cerned that an employ­ee is con­fronta­tion­al with his or her team­mates, pro­vide con­crete evi­dence to back up your asser­tion. Sim­ply say­ing I feel your heart isn’t in your work” or in my opin­ion, your work isn’t up to scratch” won’t pro­vide clar­i­fi­ca­tion. It also abrupt­ly shuts down fur­ther communication.

Over­ly broad or gen­er­al — this is par­tic­u­lar­ly crit­i­cal with rela­tion to per­son­al devel­op­ment objectives

As implied above, gen­er­al­i­ties do noth­ing but hin­der a per­for­mance review. When giv­ing feed­back, always be spe­cif­ic and, when deter­min­ing SMART objec­tives and set­ting per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives, ensure they are suc­cinct, clear and under­stood. Employ­ees and man­agers should always be on the same page. They should know what is expect­ed and by when. Employ­ees should know exact­ly how they are pro­gress­ing or where they are going wrong. With­out specifics and def­i­nite exam­ples, employ­ees will nev­er be entire­ly cer­tain and they will nev­er be able to improve or advance.

Extreme or all-encompassing

When you use words that are con­sid­ered extreme, you will appear unfair and unrea­son­able, putting employ­ees on the defen­sive. For exam­ple, you shouldn’t say that an employ­ee always” does X or nev­er” does Y. Instead, state that you have noticed cer­tain behav­iours or habits and explain how they are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. You can also dis­cuss what steps can be put in place to assist the employ­ee if they are strug­gling with cer­tain tasks.

On the oth­er side of the coin, you shouldn’t pre­tend that every­thing is per­fect and the employ­ee has noth­ing to improve upon. Even the best employ­ees can devel­op fur­ther and top per­form­ers will want to know how to take their game to the next lev­el. With­out a chal­lenge and with­out advance­ment, your employ­ees will get frus­trat­ed and bored. Remem­ber: although pos­i­tive feed­back can be inspi­ra­tional, employ­ees are gen­er­al­ly open to hear­ing con­struc­tive crit­i­cism, too. In fact, a 2014 Har­vard Busi­ness Review study showed that 57% of employ­ees like to receive neg­a­tive feed­back in order to improve their performance.

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Neg­a­tive or judgemental

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, employ­ees have dread­ed per­for­mance appraisals, per­ceiv­ing them as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to be unfair­ly judged and crit­i­cised. But per­for­mance reviews don’t have to be a neg­a­tive expe­ri­ence. It is much more advis­able to focus on the pos­i­tives and strengths. Using this tac­tic, you are much more like­ly to moti­vate your employ­ees and inspire them to work harder.

Don’t com­pare employ­ees to their peers in an unfavourable way. Don’t imply doubt, don’t humil­i­ate and don’t express frus­tra­tion when employ­ees aren’t pro­gress­ing at the rate you expect them to (not easy, but it gets eas­i­er with prac­tice!). Instead, give your employ­ees sup­port; you’ll be sur­prised how far pos­i­tiv­i­ty will get you.

Threat­en­ing or intimidating

Ulti­ma­tums rarely work in life and they don’t work to moti­vate per­for­mance, either. Threat­en­ing employ­ees to per­form the way you would like (or else) isn’t entire­ly effec­tive and will only result in a fear­ful, deval­ued employee.

Refrain from say­ing things like If you don’t start improv­ing, you’re out” or we need you to do a bet­ter job, or we’ll have to find some­one who can per­form your role bet­ter” isn’t like­ly to inspire your employ­ee to work hard­er. Pick your words care­ful­ly and remem­ber that the peo­ple in your work­force are your most valu­able asset. They should be giv­en the respect and sup­port they deserve.

To find out how Clear Review’s per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware can help you improve indi­vid­ual and com­pa­ny per­for­mance, get in touch with us today on +44 (0)20 3637 4489. We’ll talk you through our plat­form and dis­cuss your per­for­mance man­age­ment needs.