Surviving Appraisals - a manager's guide

Annual appraisals can be fraught with anxiety. Done well, they offer great opportunities for personal development.

Since my last blog post, several clients told me they refer to my PASS model whenever they are preparing for a sensitive conversation, so I thought I would share it here.

If you are holding appraisals for your team, you may find it useful:



Start by recognising your colleague’s achievements over the past year. Only this week, one (very kind) manager told me he would prefer to start by discussing “areas for improvement” and end on a high. He fears spending too much time praising his employee in case she gets complacent. Take time. People feel more secure when they know their contribution is recognised and valued. I find they are more receptive to suggestions then.


ASK questions

Looking back at the past 12 months, what are you most proud of?

Which of your skills have helped you most?

Which would you like to build on in the coming year?

How do you approach tasks when you feel uncertain of the best way forward? Can you think of an example? What worked well / not so well in this approach?


To appraise specific projects or objectives:

What went well?

What didn’t go so well?

What would you do differently next time?


One senior manager was delighted to discover that these questions got her 90% through the appraisal. Her employee identified all the issues she had wanted to discuss – which made the following two steps quicker and easier. (You can read about it in my previous blog post.)


STATE your view

Even if your colleague names the achievements and areas for development that you identified, they still need to hear it from you. I have coached several managers whose bosses skipped this stage. They left feeling unsure whether they were going in the right direction.

Explain clearly what you feel went well, and what did not go well. Be specific. What would you like them to do differently?

One Managing Director realised he had not set clear expectation from the outset. This made it harder for him to challenge his team’s attitude at the appraisal. Use the conversation as an opportunity to set clear guidelines. This avoids unwelcome surprises later on.


Set SMART goals

Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound goals. This is the final step of the process. Whilst you set overall objectives, let your employee choose how to achieve them, whenever you can. The more input they have, the more ownership they will feel.


And finally…

Don’t wait another year to repeat this conversation. Making PASS part of your monthly management plan helps your team work more effectively, and ensures there are no surprises at next year’s appraisal.

As ever, the skill is in applying this model to your situation, and asking questions which get the best for your situation. Sign up for my newsletter for more tips.

Or get in touch with me. I would be delighted to help you get your team off to a strong start.  Happy 2014!

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