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5 ways to reduce Stress during Performance Appraisals

 Performance appraisal is a year-end activity where-in managers review employees performance.  The outcome of the appraisal helps organizations to make important decisions regarding employee’s salary, promotion, training etc.

Very few people look forward to performance appraisals due to the following reasons:

1)      Managers do not want to judge employee performance. They are worried on how to give unbiased and objective feedback on employee performance.

2)      Employees don’t like to be evaluated.  They are worried and anxious about the feedback they might receive on their performance.

3)      HR is worried on how to make sure that the appraisals are completed on time and how to resolve employee-manager conflict situations.

Stress in the air

Generally, people feel that performance appraisals serve no useful purpose, as it does not help in work performance, nor does it help to improve working relationships.  Managers consider performance appraisals as just time-consuming bureaucratic requirement.  Employees consider it as an example of top down management decision making, which they cannot avoid.

Still, performance appraisals are done because the system requires them to do it!  Everyone is forced to do something which they don’t enjoy!  So we can see a visible stress with respect to all affected parties.

Stress free zone

5 ways to minimize stress:

These are some ways by which we can minimize the ever ubiquitous “stress element” present in performance appraisals:

1)      Communicate feedback regularly – Managers should make it a habit to communicate feedback to employees on their performance through-out the year.  This will eliminate year end surprises thereby reducing employees and managers anxiety.  This will reduce stress significantly.

2)      Train managers to conduct appraisal meetings: Training should be given to managers and employees on how to have successful yearly appraisal meetings.  The appraisal meeting has to be conducted in a stress-free environment.  Managers would have to first start the meeting by appreciating the employee on good performance before sharing critical inputs.  The employees should also be able to share their thoughts without inhibitions and managers should genuinely listen and address the same.  This training will lead to stress-free appraisal meetings.

3)      Take genuine interest in employee development:  Organizations and managers would have to take genuine interest in employee career development and progress.  Opportunities would have to be provided and sufficient training and guidance would have to be given to them to perform, excel and grow. If organizations exhibit the culture of employee development, then employees would be willing to be evaluated on their performance, as they would realize that any critical input is given for their own development.

4)      Lessen administrative overhead:  Performance appraisals leads to increased administrative work-load for the HR department in organizations.  This is because they are responsible for ensuring a smooth sail of appraisals for all employees.  They have to ensure that all employees are clear on the appraisal process; all complete them on time and so on.  Software that takes care of a huge chunk of the administrative workload will reduce the stress-levels of HR department.

5)      Use simple and easy to handle software: Managers might feel stressful because they have to complete appraisals to all people reporting to them.  An easy to use performance management software or tool can help managers to a certain extent in reducing stress. Some features that a manager can use include:

a.       A view of the self-feedback (and other relevant feedback). This will help managers to easily understand and frame their own thoughts.
b.      A view of their own personal notes / or regular feedback notes.
c.       Guidance text on how to give feedback on certain scenarios.
d.      Automatic feedback saver, save and complete later options.

When organizations incorporate these suggestions, it will help them to reduce the stress associated with performance appraisals.  This will also help them move towards a performance culture in the organization and will result in increased employee engagement and better collaboration & trust among employees.

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