Poor Communication Skills

Dear Geese:

I have a “weenie” for a supervisor. You never hear a thing from the guy until performance review time, and that’s only because he has to speak. It is also the only time we get any feedback from him. To make matters worse, he will bring up things that happened months ago and puts it in the review! Seriously! I know this is all wrong, right?

-Kim T.

Dear Kim,

I sense two questions in your comment. First, you want some confirmation that your manager’s communication skills around feedback and his use of the performance reviews are ineffective at best. And second, you want to know if there is anything you can do about it. Actually, I threw in the second part because I know others are wondering that themselves.

 Let’s talk about feedback and performance evaluations. In my opinion, here are four keys that every manager/company should adopt:

·      You should never hear feedback (positive or negative) for the first time during a performance review. If that is the case, it says more about the person delivering the feedback than even the feedback itself.

·      For feedback to be meaningful, it needs to be delivered in real time, not months later.

·      Employees perform better when they get ongoing feedback. It allows them to make adjustments along the way.

·      Performance reviews should not be limited to an annual process. Twice per year is best. If that’s not possible, then informal evaluations should occur at the 6-month mark.

·      Performance reviews need to consist of two-way feedback. In other words, employees should also have the opportunity to provide feedback/suggestions to their immediate supervisor during this process as well. After all, accountability needs to go both ways.

In terms of what you can do about this situation, here are a couple options (in order of preference):

1.     Manage up with you supervisor (ask for what you need from him and position it in a way that benefits him as well). Something like: “I appreciate getting feedback from you during my performance review and was wondering if we could take it one step further. Do you think you could provide me with feedback on an ongoing basis instead of waiting until our performance reviews? This way I’ll be able to make adjustments along the way and you won’t have save up all the feedback for the performance review. Is that something you’d be willing to do? The key here is not make your supervisor wrong but instead to simply ask for what you need and to show the mutual benefits of making such a change.

2.     Hopefully you won’t need to explore this step because your supervisor was willing to work with you on your request. However, if he is not receptive of changing his ways, I’d recommend conferring with your Human Resources department for some advice. HR is not always the best answer but I still think it’s the logical second step if needed.

Kim, variables like the size and culture of a particular company will greatly impact any remaining options at this point. Hence, let’s talk if you continue to struggle with this issue or you need more clarification.



Greg "Geese" Giesen




To submit your Dear Geese question, email it to greg@greggiesen.com.