Open-Ended Feedback Requests: Now Being Requested By a Sucker Near You…

Kris Dunn Audacious Ideas, Employee Communications, Employee Relations, Hiring Managers, Kris Dunn

A lot of you are in an end-of-the-year cycle when it comes to performance reviews. Which is code for the following:

“This #### would be a lot easier if someone would write it for me.”

Which leads to this moment of rationalization:

“I know what to do: I should ask my employees to give me feedback on how THEY think they’re doing.”

Which leads to the following moment of honest reflection:

“Of course, I’m doing that so they’ll write their performance review for me. But what am I? Malcolm ####ing Gladwell?  I’m not a writer.  I need this.”

Turns out, you can sell out and still keep control. If you’re looking for a way to get your employee to write part of their own performance review without losing control or setting false expectations, this guide is for you.

Here’s 5 things you should do when requesting an employee give you feedback/notes on their own performance: 

-Sell in the request of your intro that there’s been good days, and there’s been bad days.  Don’t leave it open-ended.  Go ahead and set the expectation you don’t consider them to be perfect, which in turn tells them that what they give you probably ought to be balanced.

Let them know that you’re still 100% in charge like Marcus Lemonis.  Do you watch “The Profit” on CNBC?  It’s about an investment guy who helps save failing small businesses.  When he writes the investment check, he always says, “and I’m 100% in charge.”  Your request for information should allude to the fact that their feedback is one of many data points, and you still are in charge of the review.

Allude to the fact that you’ve got a database of facts on their performance because you’re more organized than Donald Trump tracking immigration counts from Syria. Another important factor in receiving balanced self-feedback from the employee is the sense that you already have balanced notes on them. Tell them you do… even if it’s filed “right here” (points to cranium/head).

Ask for a mix of feedback, both good and bad, in a specific request format. In your requests for self-review notes should be a format that you want it back in. Example: “Give me two things you’ve done well and two areas where you think you could improve.” If you don’t tell them how to do it, you’re likely going to get garbage back.

Set the expectation that the final performance review they’ll see may include references to what they give you, but any notes they provide are subject to your “good vs. great” filter. You’re the coach, so they may give you an area they think they’re excelling at. That’s great, but you reserve the “great” tag for things that are truly great. Sharing this in your request in an informal way sets you up to coach effectively.

Are you selling out by asking the employee for feedback/having them write part of their review for you?

Yes. But you can sell out in a progressive way. Ask for their feedback with the notes above in mind, and you’ll look like a real performance coach rather than a slob who’s looking for raw text to copy and paste.

Good luck with your end of year process.  I hope your performance reviews go really well.

FOT Note: This Rant is brought to you by the good folks at Halogen Software who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our performance management track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). They’re also up for having fun to the extent that they’re sponsoring a podcast called “The Performance Enhancing Podcast,” which is a double entendre if we’ve ever heard one.