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Managing Disagreements During Performance Reviews

by Caroline Buhagiar | 25 Nov. 2016

What do you do when an employee disagrees with something you've written on their performance review? How can you prepare for this and deal with it effectively?

Start by listening to figure out the source of the disagreement. You have listed down that the employee needs to improve and show more commitment but she thinks she did a great job putting many hours in work. How do we overcome such disagreement? If the disagreement involves an issue of fact, get the facts and make any corrections necessary. If it's a matter of judgment, ask the employee for additional evidence. Then determine whether that evidence is weighty enough to cause you to change your mind, revise your judgment, and amend the rating that you assigned on the employee's performance review if evidence proves otherwise.

Most of the time, you have a reasonably good understanding of the areas where disagreements are likely to pop up in the course of the performance review discussion. Before beginning the discussion, re-read the review you wrote and try to spot the areas where you and the individual may not see eye-to-eye. Then ask yourself, "What am I going to say when Mario disagrees with my assessment that his performance on the on XXX project just barely met expectations?" If you've taken the time to review the appraisal you've written for potential hot spots, and given some thought to how you'll respond, you're much less likely to be caught off guard. You need to show evidence and facts to support your claims. This will rely on your ability to have one to one discussions on an ongoing basis and not just once a year. In fact doing the latter is the recipe why so many performance conversations go wrong.

During the employee performance review discussion, start with your higher ratings and move toward the lower ones. Be prepared to give additional examples besides the ones you've included on the formal written appraisal. Refer back to the informal conversations you have had with the individual over the course of the year and your one to one interactions. Be sure to collect feedback from other colleagues, peers and internal customer/external customer of the individual to ensure you have a 360 feedback view of the individual.

In dealing effectively with employee performance review disagreements, remember what your objective in the discussion is — and what it isn't. Your objective in a performance review discussion is not to gain agreement. It is to gain understanding. If the employee agrees with you, that's great. But particularly if your appraisal is a tough-minded assessment of the fact the individual’s contribution toward achieving your department's objectives was only mediocre, you'll probably never get him to agree. That's OK. What you want is for him to understand why you evaluated his performance the way you did, even if his personal opinion is different.

Finally, if you have several employee performance reviews to deliver, don't start with the individual whose performance was the worst and where disagreements are the most likely to arise. Start with the easiest — your best performer — and move toward the more difficult. This will help ease the path towards the more crucial conversations coming ahead.

Caroline Buhagiar is an avid and passionate HR professional who has worked in large multinational companies in Europe, US and Asia. She is fluent in manufacturing excellence, business excellence, building HR capability and driving
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