It’s been bandied around in many professional publications for some time now that many firms are said to be scrapping the appraisal scheme.

Whilst this may be great news for some, it still presents many questions.  What are they going to be replaced with?  How will learning needs be agreed and identified?  If pay is linked with performance, how will this be decided?  But of equal importance, how will people know how their performance is perceived by others?  These questions, no doubt, are in the minds of HR professionals within the organisation, as well, of course, as the managers who must administer either existing appraisal schemes or whatever is to replace them.

At the heart of every effective appraisal (or whatever it’s replaced with!) is of course how feedback is delivered and handled.     It is handled with confidence or do those conducting the appraisal shy away from having honest conversations.

There is, of course, no shortage of skills development programmes offered to managers to enhance their capability in having effective performance feedback conversations with employees.  A quick search on Amazon and you’ll find over 473 books on managing people, and when looking at giving feedback on YouTube, the results are in excess of 200,000, some of which are just a few minutes long.  So good managers happily go on courses, take feedback and implement their new learnings with great gusto, whereas others have to be dragged along, resisting the learning once they’re there, heaving a huge sigh of relief as they leave, never to implement any of their learnings ever again!

So if it’s not because of a lack of skills, then what is it that stops managers from having these conversations and managing their people effectively?

Food for thought

We recently read  Richard Barton, HR director, Sogeti UK article in People Management, whereby he suggests that it’s a pendulum with managers swinging between confidence, abundance or lack thereof, ie, worried about getting it wrong or being ignored or even sometimes scared of the employee’s reaction.  He then moves on to suggest another perspective, as he describes it (being less generous), he says some managers are just cowards.  These cowardly managers include blocking candidate/employee succession, trashing the work of teams and colleague members via emails, noting at the bottom that this was “in confidence” and wouldn’t want the person to find out what he’d written, invariably these conversations taking place behind the individual’s back as opposed to feeling brave enough to have the conversation with them directly.  Barton goes on to suggest that cowardly managers want power without responsibility.     Thought provoking statements indeed!  Is this true?  Have you experienced this yourself?

Tools and Frameworks

At Jungle we recognise that there are many skills and attributes of those appointed to the role of people manager.  Some take to this like a duck to water, whereas others, if they were honest, perhaps would prefer to progress their career through more of a technical path.  We at Jungle find it important for managers to understand the impact of their own leadership style and to recognise how this aligns or differs with their own team members.  Using such tools as Insights Discovery helps give managers a framework with which to make this assessment, both of themselves and how they might need to flex and adapt their style to meet the needs of others.

Asking the right questions

In our experience, the giving and receiving of feedback is a two-way process.  The employee clearly needs to ask for feedback and the manager or co-worker must be prepared to provide this.  The HR team, of course, helps managers to get ready for these conversations but in our experience, labelling these as ‘tough’ or ‘difficult’ or’ courageous conversations’ just sets the tone for the potential challenge that lies ahead.  In our experience, all employees know when they’ve done a great job.  Equally, in our experience, employees know when they could have performed better.  Asking the right questions in the right way that aligns your preferences and blends those with the needs of the individual to whom you’re speaking can have a really rich outcome.

So rather than thinking about feedback as either confidence or cowardly, we would like to think that feedback should be colourful.