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The Aftermath of Performance Appraisal: Giving Constructive Criticism

Mid and final year performance appraisal are a challenging period for both managers and subordinates. During this time organisations are a melting pot of emotions with employees feeling joy, disappointment and demoralisation, and some motivated to look for another job. These emotions, if not handled well, can result in resignations, demotivation resulting in poor performance, a lack of commitment, lower productivity and efficiency from disgruntled employee(s). This does not bode well for the atmosphere and health of your organisation.

Successful organisations are built on strong employee satisfaction, retention and motivation. A motivated high performing employee, according to the McKinsey’s “War for Talent” study, outperform average performer by a wide margin. The study showed that high performers in operations roles can increase productivity by 40%, when in management roles they increase profits by 49%, and are responsible for 67% more revenue in sales roles.

Highly motivated employees are critical to the life and growth of your organization. In this globally competitive environment, two things should be avoided:

(i)   A demotivated workforce.

(ii)  A high employee attrition/turn-over rate – typically above 7%.

It would be even more concerning if the bulk of the 7% heading out the door are the top performers!

The reality of employee demotivation and attrition makes the ability to provide constructive criticism during performance appraisals crucial.

The common performance review scenario:

Managers and Team Leaders/Supervisors sit around a table to rank their employees’ performance. Research has shown that, in these ranking sessions, a lot of credit is often given to perceived high performers i.e. employees who are in public and/or co-ordination roles. These are often the extroverted employees with cross functional job roles that interact with multiple functions within the organisation e.g. project management engineers. This increased “visibility” is often incorrectly equated to higher performance.

The other side of the coin is that the diligent introvert employee, who is committed and silently delivers quality work often ends up with the low ranking because, he isn’t “visible enough”. It is very dangerous to reward visibility ahead of quality work delivery or value-addition.

Managers and Team Leaders can use the following guidelines to provide constructive criticism to their subordinates:

1.   Choose your words carefully:

Avoid portraying blame i.e. “you messages” can portray blame:

  • “You are always late for work/meetings.”
  • “You’ve been slacking off in your duties.”

Rather start with “I” and focus on how their actions make others feel, by showing how their actions and decisions (or lack thereof) affect you or others.

Also avoid using strong words such as “outraged, furious and/or angry” but rather use softer synonyms such as “disheartened, disappointed,”etc.

2. Give the employee a chance to express their feelings.

Use a one-on-one approach i.e. treat them as your equal and allow them to express their feelings openly. The freedom to openly express themselves will remove the heavy weight and assists with healing.

3. Avoid expressing disbelief and rather express understanding.

The worst thing do to a disgruntled person is to make them feel that their feelings are not justified. Showing empathy will go a long way to having happy and motivated employee.

4. Don’t react, respond.

It is tempting to shout back when someone shouts at you. Reacting to anger in a assertive tone will only flair it up even more. When a disgruntled employee shouts at you – diffuse their anger by responding in a soft tone.

5.  Stay on topic.

When providing constructive feedback, it is important to stay focused and on topic by:

  • Maintaining eye contact with the employee/subordinate.
  • Avoiding multitasking e.g. giving your mobile phone attention while talking to them.
  • Stick to the main points and address them one by one.

After a receiving a disappointing performance appraisal, employees need to be nurtured back to a positive outlook and performance. The ability to provide constructive criticism can make the employees’ journey back to being positive and motivated an easier one.


Should you want to develop or improve your ability to provide constructive criticism, our professional Employee Wellness Counsellor are here to help you from the comfort of your home/office through online counselling. Alternatively, take our full online course “Delivering constructive criticism”. For more information, go to 

July 14, 2018

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