Employee performance appraisals are a well-established part of corporate life. They come in many shapes and sizes: in some organisations they are simple one-to-ones and in others they are more formal and complex.
But although the way appraisals are conducted varies, they tend to have one thing in common: they’re not very popular.
Dealing with constructive feedback is one of the most obvious reasons that employees bulk at the prospect of their annual review.
“I know that giving ‘constructive criticism’ is part of the appraisal process,” says executive assistant Lisa Strong*. “But it doesn’t make it any easier to hear – I just feel like I am being put down.”
Although it may be natural to feel defensive, it is important to move past this, as HR Consultant Theressa Hines explains.
“It can be painful to hear that you are not the shining star you might have thought you were.
“But whilst it is confronting initially, don’t react negatively to constructive feedback. Give yourself time to digest it and see it from the other person’s perspective,” she says.
The benefit of constructive feedback is that it helps you identify the areas that you can develop in order to enhance your performance.
“Open, honest constructive feedback will help you understand how others may perceive you and your work and will also help you to identify opportunities to improve,” Hines notes.
Sometimes constructive feedback is difficult to absorb because an employee does not agree with the assessment. Employees in this situation can feel very threatened says Hines. She suggests that some self-analysis is a good way forward.
“It is important to analyse the feedback to determine whether our angst is borne from change to the way we do tasks, or, because we legitimately believe that the constructive feedback is inaccurate,” Hines explains.
If an employee genuinely believes that the feedback is unfair then Hines says that it is important to seek clarification from the person who has given the feedback. It may even be appropriate to raise the issue with Human Resources, who will be able to arrange an additional assessment of the situation.
In some cases an employee who does not agree with the constructive feedback they have been given could have a development ‘blind spot’. I.e. they cannot see that they are exhibiting a certain behaviour even though it is obvious to their peers and manager.
When this happens a manager might have to address the feedback again from time to time, so that the employee has a chance to reflect on it. It is also crucial to provide “real time” examples. “It is an on-going process,” Hines explains.
For some women, it is the absence of constructive feedback that is frustrating at appraisal time.
“I think my boss glosses over my development areas,” says IT manager Elizabeth Strong.
“Maybe [my manager] finds it hard to provide constructive feedback,” she says. ” But I feel like I am missing out on a chance to grow.”
What’s your experience with constructive criticism?
* Name has been changed