Avoid these infuriating phrases in end-of-year feedback

Avoid These Infuriating Phrases in End-of-Year Feedback

For most managers, the only thing they dread more than going to their own end-of-year performance appraisal is holding end-of-year feedback discussions with their team. Why?

Because the performance appraisal system is unnatural by design. Imagine if we burdened our home relationships with some of the same formal systems we impose at work.

“Honey, I’ve decided to give you an end-of-year appraisal. Your cooking has improved and you’re taking out the trash without being reminded, you get an “Exceeds Expectations” in domestic duties. “But you’ve been so stressed lately, and it’s been months since you brought me flowers, I have to give romance a B-.”

And if your company is using a stack ranking system, made worse with forced ratings quotas,  it’s even more tricky.

I’ll save the rant about these old school systems for another day since chances are you’re already neck-deep in preparing for these required conversations. Instead, I’ve collected a list of the most infuriating phrases many employees have told me have ticked them off (or made them quit).

6 Infuriating End-Of-Year Feedback Phrases That Crush Morale

1. “I don’t have much feedback for you. You know you’re doing great.”

Why it’s infuriating: You know who hears this? The people that have been killing themselves going above and beyond expectations. Every single week I hear from high-performers who feel overlooked and are starving for recognition.

What to Do Instead: If they’re doing great, be sure to give specific feedback about what was so great and why it mattered. Also, care enough to offer specific ideas for how they can grow and do even better. See Also:  7 Things Your High-Performing Employees Long to Hear You Say.

2. “I rated you a meets expectations. Your performance really was an “exceeds” but I had to make the math work out.” Or, even worse, “I could only have one in that category.”

Why it’s infuriating: Basically this is saying, I’m rating you lower than you deserve. And nothing is more infuriating than injustice.

What to Do Instead: It’s always best to stay focused on results and behaviors, rather than the rating. But if an employee is frustrated, they may be so distracted by the rating it’s difficult for them to think about anything else. Be clear about the criteria that you used to calibrate performance and where they met and exceeded that criteria and opportunities to improve in the future. Stay away from comparisons to other employees, or blaming other people for the rating they received.

3. “I know we haven’t had a chance to talk about this before, but _____”

Why it’s infuriating: Nothing new should be surfacing in end-of-year feedback. And yet so frequently employees tell us they were completely blindsided by observations of behaviors from earlier in the year. It’s frustrating because it feels like a gotcha game instead of constructive feedback that they could have acted on if they had heard about it sooner.

What to Do Instead: Never bring up new feedback in a performance review. Be proactive in sharing observations as close to when it occurred as possible.

4. “Well, I don’t really have any specific examples, but it’s become a real issue.”

Why it’s infuriating: Feedback without specifics feels unfounded; not to mention generalized feedback with no examples would never hold up if they challenged you in a formal way (e.g. lawsuit).

What to Do Instead: Be sure you can offer specific examples of the behavior for any feedback you are giving

5. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from other people about your performance in this arena. Who?  I’m not at liberty to say. Have I noticed it, well, no but everybody is telling me about it.”

Why it’s infuriating: You lose credibility and trust by acting on feedback you’ve heard thirdhand—you’re essentially saying, “I trust them and doubt you.” Ouch.

What to Do Instead: Find a way to observe the issue yourself. Or encourage the person with the feedback to offer it directly.

6. “Just write up your accomplishments and I’ll sign it.”

Why it’s infuriating: Why bother? “You want me to do YOUR job?

What to Do Instead: Have them submit their accomplishments, and then invest the time to share your observations and a well-thought-through commentary. Make the effort to ensure they feel seen and understood.

Done well end-of-year feedback conversations can go a long way in building trust, aligning expectations with results, and laying the foundation for a great start to the new year. If you show up with confident-humility, focused on both results and relationships.

Other Helpful Tools For Your End-Of-Year Feedback Sessions

MIT Huddle Planner (a tool to use weekly to make your end of year sessions smooth sailing)

How to Prepare for a Better Development Discussion

Creative Ways to Develop Your Managers

Feedback: Getting Great Insights From People Who Matter

As leaders, getting enough feedback on your leadership can sometimes be a challenge. Of course, it’s important to know what your boss thinks. What is equally important are the broader impressions your leadership is making up down and sideways. Today I share some formal and informal tools to get the conversation started.

Who Are You Asking for Feedback?

One of the most frequent questions folks ask me when starting a new mentoring relationship is, “what impressions do you have of me?”

In other words,

“What’s my brand?”

“What have you heard about me?”

“What have you observed?”

“How do you talk about me to others?”

Great questions. I believe in transparency and I always shoot straight. But the truth is, what I think may matter, but I am just one opinion.

After I answer their question, I ask a few of my own

  • Who else have you asked?
  • What are your peers saying?
  • What would your team say?
  • If you took a new job, what would the folks working for you today be texting to the new team?

The answer is frequently, “um…I haven’t really done much asking.”

The answers to “why not” vary

  • I hadn’t thought about it
  • I’ve been so busy
  •  I didn’t want to bother everyone
  •  … ?

Or if they are really honest.

  • I am scared of what I might hear
  • Then I might have to do something about it
  • …?

The thing is, people are talking about your strengths and opportunities in all kinds of contexts. Why not find out what they are saying?

Some Feedback Tools

There are many formal and informal ways of soliciting feedback. Using a deliberate approach to getting feedback is particularly valuable in helping to identify blind spots. It can also help you sort through the tricky landscape of overused strengths becoming weaknesses.

360 Feedback Tools

360 degree feedback tools can be invaluable for getting a comprehensive view. These tools enable your boss, your peers and your team to all rate you on various leadership dimensions and competencies. I find these tools work best when people take the time to offer comments and examples. I also highly recommend working with a coach to help you digest and take action on the feedback.

I have also seen many great examples of people doing this in a more informal way. Setting up time to get feedback from others, or using informal questionnaires to get feedback.

Informal Approaches

Even without formal tools, there are easy ways to open up the feedback conversation.

A simple, free online tool based on the Johari window, enables you to compare your perceived strengths to others you invite for feedback, click on this Johari Interactive tool to complete the assessment.

One reader, Sarah Parrish, recently sent me the questions she was using in her informal 360 poll. She has found the process and feedback valuable and so I share her questions.

· What are 3 words that you think of when thinking of my strengths?
· What are 3 words that you think of when thinking of my areas of improvement?
· Have you been able to benefit from working with me in the past? If so, how?
· Where could I have improved in our past interactions to help make your job easier?
· What makes me stand out from others either personally or professionally?
· What could I do differently to come off as more approachable?

I have also used a group approach with teams I lead. I have them work together on a list of feedback on what I am doing that is helpful, what they need more of, what they need less of, and how I am getting in their way. Then I come back in the room and we work together on solutions. This one can be risky and the team and relationships need to be in a mature place, but each time I have done it I have learned so much.

Asking questions about your leadership can be a fantastic way to grow. It’s vital that you are open and ready to receive it.

Please comment and share:

What ways do you collect feedback to improve your leadership?