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Key steps to best practice performance feedback

HCTV speaks to legal expert Joydeep Hor from People + Culture Strategies, and organisational psychologist Adrianna Loveday from Randstad.

Video transcript below:

Stephanie Zillman, HC TV
Stephanie Zillman:  A common dilemma that HR professionals face is the concern that performance management will be interpreted as bullying.  Joydeep Horr from People and Culture Strategies says there are surefire ways for HR to safeguard their organisations as long as correct and proper processes are followed.  
Joydeep Hor: I think the most important thing for managers is appreciating that legitimate performance management will never be bullying, at least in so far as the traditional accepted definition of bullying is concerned.  So that needs to contribute to a level of robustness that I think managers have when they are having these kinds of conversations.  If someone feels that they have been bullied however, there is the issue of what they are feeling as opposed to the issue of what’s actually happening and the managers should be very clear that what’s in fact happening is a legitimate process to give that performance feedback on performance.  If the individual feels that they want to exercise their rights to make a complaint about bullying, well so be it, let them do that. That needs to be treated as a separate process altogether.
Stephanie Zillman: To minimise unnecessary stress for management and HR alike, Adrianna Loveday from Randstad says preparation and adequate training are the key.
Adrianna Loveday, GM, HR Consulting Division, Randstad
Adrianna Loveday:  Most effective managers will, they will lead with the positive, so they will reaffirm the employee strengths at the beginning of a conversation.  This does not mean that they avoid the negative aspects of the employee’s performance.  Rather they focus on improving it and the desired change that they expect as managers.  For example, it may be as specific as, “I need you to be more professional and more polished in the workplace”.
Stephanie Zillman:  Joydeep Hor says employers must ensure organisations and employees are in the habit of a continuous feedback loop.
Joydeep Hor:  The need for continuous feedback and establishing a trusted platform between a manager and the manager’s team member whereby feedback is going to be continuous, it will be positive at times, it will be constructive / negative at other times.  But whatever it is, it’s going to be there and managers being in the discipline of giving it, employees being in the discipline of receiving it, is what identifies a best practice performance management structure within any organisation.
Stephanie Zillman: Loveday says a best practice performance management process is more successful when a confrontational approach is avoided.
Adrianna Loveday:  Effective managers tend to avoid being confrontational.  They don’t criticise the employee in general terms, rather they use the conversation to focus on performance, not the particular person.  They watch their language, the tone, the examples that they use to the highlight negative behaviours, make sure that the conversation is a two way conversation.  So they give the employee the sense that there is an open agenda and their opinions and perspectives are really valued and sought after.
Stephanie Zillman:  Loveday adds that despite best efforts employers should also be prepared for negative reactions from employees.
Adrianna Loveday:  Certainly just general defensiveness is a very typical sign, one of the first typical signs.  Scapegoating or blame shifting, expressions of hostility, anger and resentment towards the manager, lot of individuals will go into emotional shutdown mode because they are not used to taking on board negative feedback.  So it’s really important for managers to anticipate these typical reactions, so they can plan accordingly.  
Stephanie Zillman:  For Horr employers can’t eliminate the risk of a bullying claim as a result of performance management, but a fair, just and legitimate process will be recognised in court.
Joydeep Hor:  Organisations need to appreciate that we live in one of the most litigious times from an employee relations perspective in this country’s history and there will be calls on their behaviours and they will be found out if their motives have been less than pure because there are plenty of lawyers around town who are going to embrace those cases with open arms.  
Stephanie Zillman:  This is Stephanie Zillman reporting for HC TV.