I am having my 2015 progress review this week. Over the past 26 years, I have some good, bad, or non-existent progress reviews. My agency’s 1999 guidance on performance management states, “Progress Review is a meeting conducted twice a year with an employee to give feedback regarding performance progress toward achieving the performance standards.” All of this sounds good, but based on my previous progress reviews, my supervisor and I will discuss everything but my progress.
Surprising? Not really…I have talked to many other federal employees who have had similar experiences. Four of my last five supervisors either conducted no progress reviews at all or simply emailed progress reviews to their employees to sign and email back. One “train of thought” suggests that most people, including managers, are not very good at providing developmental feedback. They can address obvious problems, and sometimes, cannot even do that. Many managers have a hard time telling someone that is doing a good job that they could do a better one.
When I supervised at another agency, we had the “pass or fail” system.” For those of you too young to remember, the pass/fail appraisal places retention-level performance at the fully successful or equivalent level (pass). If an employee did not meet or exceed the fully successful level, his or her performance was unacceptable (fail). I liked this system because the two-level appraisal system simplified the appraisal process, focused more attention on employee feedback and development, and fostered a sense of teamwork. Responses to one agency’s internal survey indicated a strong employee interest in receiving feedback, and “pass or fail” did not allow supervisors to abdicate their responsibilities of providing meaningful feedback.
In preparation for my progress review, I found an insightful article that offers suggestions to make it easier for the supervisor to think through what employees are looking for during their progress reviews.
(1) Ask for direct feedback. To this, I usually get “Everything’s fine,” but the article suggests asking the supervisor what he would change about the way I approach my job.
(2) Debrief on specific projects. I have done this, but the article recommends asking for the supervisor’s thoughts on doing a project differently for better results.
(3) Talk about what I am building toward. “Been there, done that,” but the article proposes asking what he sees potentially standing in the way of my potential goals.
(4) Take critical feedback well. Like I said earlier, I usually get no feedback, so this will be challenging for me. The article suggests staying pleasant and professional, and even thanking him for the feedback.
For those of you who also want more meaningful feedback during your progress reviews, you might want to try some of the suggestions above. I plan to give (2) and (3) a try during my progress review, and at least this year, I can say that I actually did have one.
Cynthia V White is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.