Managing Director, Ambition Hong Kong
How to use appraisals to help build rapport with your team
I was recently appointed as a mid-level manager at a fairly large company and one of the first tasks handed to me was the appraisals. I am feeling slightly uncomfortable doing them as I have been highly critical of their value in the past. To make matters worse, I will be reviewing the performances of my former colleagues. I do not want to be too critical of them, but I accept that I have to be more managerial now. Is there any way to do this without damaging relationships?
I understand your reticence to conduct the reviews. However, can I suggest you view this as a valuable opportunity to build greater rapport and trust with your former colleagues? You can avoid being critical by drawing a line on what has gone before and promising them a fresh start under your leadership.
It is your role to understand the goals of the team within the broader context of the company’s strategy and to ensure the team achieves those goals with the resources at your disposal. These resources include the people working with you, so this opportunity enables you to begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses and where you may need to make changes to strengthen the team.
You could frame these meetings as a “getting to know you again” conversation, rather than a performance appraisal, adding that the conversation will be strictly confidential. Explain that although you are now the manager, you are all on the same team and that in these meetings you are more interested in their thoughts, feelings and motivators rather than delivering a previous manager’s view on their performance.
You want to understand how they feel about their job and the role they play in the team, their strengths and preferences, areas of the job they do not like, their relationship with their colleagues, and their views on the future. Ask them for their advice on what they would do in your position.
You can also discuss the comments made by the previous manager about their performance and learn whether they feel they were justified. There may also be some advice you can give, again delivered in a constructive way.
If you can make this meeting an informal conversation, rather than a “critical performance lecture”, you will be able to extract some valuable insights about your team members and who is likely to be with you and who is not, which will help you with your decisions later on.
You then have the paperwork to complete for your own manager and the HR team. Obviously, you need to write factual appraisals for the record, but without much of the “confidential” views that were shared.
This is a valuable opportunity to strengthen your role as manager rather than damage relationships.