Saturday, March 03, 2007

Constructive Criticism, Part 3: Be Specific

In employee performance appraisals, general criticism is useless. Paul J. Jerome's Coaching through Effective Feedback mentions a four-stage process for giving feedback: describe the employee’s current behaviors, the situations in which they occur, the impacts and consequences of those behaviors, and the alternative behaviors.

If we look at that last stage as a reinforcing as well as an alternative behavior, then this approach can work in positive as well as negative contexts. Here are two quick examples:

Negative Performance
Carmelo’s time management is below standard [current behavior]. He missed the proposal deadline on the Ambiance Project in January, and he did not respond to four client inquiries within the expected 24-hour response company standard during the past business quarter [situations]. Missed request-for-proposal (RFP) deadlines and delayed responses to clients’ needs compromise the company’s reputation of efficient customer service and directly leads to lost sales [impacts and consequences]. Carmelo should prioritize his primary responsibility of putting the client first by realistically allotting scheduled time to RFPs and by valuing client correspondence before most internal or personal messages [alternative behavior].

Positive Performance
Carmelo’s communication skills have improved considerably [current behavior]. His PowerPoint presentations during the February 12 staff meeting and the March 1 Quality Committee meeting received excellent responses, and his reports and proposals are more clear and concise than in previous review periods [situations]. As a result, he has become a source of reliable, efficient information in the Sales Unit. In fact, two of our clients, ABC and XYZ, have specifically sought his input on our new product offerings, increasing the possibility of improved market share [impacts and consequences]. Carmelo will maintain, or even heighten, his credibility by continually researching and applying best practices in the effective communication [alternative, or reinforcing, behavior].

All of this is to say—remember to be specific when writing performance appraisals!

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