Coaching Skills Certification

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Performance Appraisal Guidelines

Performance Appraisal Guidelines

Performance Appraisal Guidelines

Many managers confuse coaching sessions with performance appraisal sessions. Performance appraisals will go smoothly only if ongoing coaching has been provided. At review time, follow the steps below to conduct effective perfomance appraisal sessions.

  1. Put the employee at ease and state the purpose ofthe meeting-to discuss how he is doing on the job so he can grow professionally and gain clarity about his performance.
  2. Engage the employee in the discussion by asking open-minded questions about his self-assessment on each of his goals and/or competencies.
  3. Practice active listening skills by showing interest in the employee's point of view. Be prepared to change your point of view based on new facts presented by the employee that you may have overlooked.
  4. Discuss strengths and then growth areas for each of the employee's goals and/or competencies. Recognize and reinforce achievements.
  5. Express criticism directly and constructively. Discuss problem areas. Emphasize two or three priority areas where improvement is most necessary. Describe how these changes could have greater impact on the employee, team, customer, manager, or business.
  6. Seek the employee's opinion on ways he can improve in his growth areas.
  7. Ask the employee how you can help him improve in these growth areas.
  8. Stay focused on the specifics of the performance appraisal process - do not discuss salary.
  9. End on an upbeat note. Thank the employee for his contribution to the business.
  10. Set a later time to discuss salary and goals for the next period.

For more information on this topic, read Effective Performance Appraisals, by Robert B. Maddux, Crisp Publications.

What to Do When All Else Fails

Occasionally, despite the best of coaching or counseling sessions, an employee's performance may continue to deteriorate or remain below acceptable standards.

When this happens, you as manager or team leader, must take responsibility for determining the solution to the situation by choosing from the alternatives below. Before determining the best solution, answer the questions at each alternative.

Alternative:  Restructure existing job

  • Does the employee posesses enough skills in key areas of the restructured job?
  • Can tasks be eliminated or delegated where the emplyee's performance is below standard?

Alternative:  Transfer to another job within the company

  • Can the employee make a contribution elsewhere in the company?
  • Will a replacement requistion be cut if this person is transferred, or will I be left with no one to do the job?
  • Does the employee have the required intellectual and personal capabilities and skills to succeed at another position?
  • Is the employee motivated to learn a new job?
  • Am I being realistic, or simply avoiding responsibility for termination by transferring a "problem" employee to another area where problems might continue?

Alternative:  Disciplinary action and determination

  • Have I given the employee every chance to succeed?
       Has the employee adequate resources to do the job?
       Has the employee been sufficiently trained and oriented?
       Has the employee been through coaching and counselling
  • Does the employee understand the expectations and job standards?
  • Has the employee made promises to improve and not kept these promises?
    Is the employee's performance performance disrupting the team's performance or affecting business results?

Disciplinary Action - The Last Alternative

If you have tried your best as a manager to help an employee improve his or her performance and your efforts have not helped, you will need to initiate disciplinary action. Disciplinary action should be reserved for situations when improvement does not occur in a reasonable amount oftime. (Throughout the corrective action process, employees should be afforded the right to present their side ofthe story.) In such cases, disciplinary action should be spelled out in advance, and it should come as a corrective and logical consequence. Even if discipline is used, action plans to improve performance should be developed. This section will help you carry out that action.

Disciplinary Action:

A formal management system designed to get the employee to accept responsibilityfor his or her own behavior and to agree to improve performance or face specific prescribed alternatives.

  1. Document the Employee's Performance
    The manager needs to keep an informal file on each employee, recording dates and times of counseling or coaching sessions. The manager's notes should include what was discussed, what was agreed upon, and whether performance problems have improved, stayed the same, or deteriorated. Specific and measurable performance objectives should be defined in any disciplinary action plan.
  2. Involve Human Resources or Personnel
    Make sure you are working within your organization's policies when instituting a disciplinary action. Check with your human resources or personnel manager before you move into the "Required Steps in Disciplinary Action" shown on the next page.
  3. Get Your Manager's Support
    Make sure your judgments and decisions are supported by your manager. It is wise to keep him or her informed during the disciplinary action process so there are no surprises. It is also a good idea to solicit her advice and approval.

Required Steps in DisciplinaryAction

Level 1: Verbal Warning
A verbal warning is a conversation between an employee and manager to correct a performance problem by formally bringing it to the attention ofthe employee. After meeting with the employee, the manager may wish to prepare a memo of the verbal warning for the files. If such a memo is prepared, a copy should be given to the employee. Verbal warnings are always given in private.

Level 2: Written Reminder
If the employee fails to make the desired performance changes following a verbal warning, a Level 2 action should be taken. A written reminder is documentation of a formal discussion between a manager and an employee regarding a performance problem. The discussion is followed by a letter written to the employee which summarizes the conversation. A copy ofthis letter is generally sent to Human Resources and put in the employee's file.

Level 3: Termination Discussion
Manager informs the employee that he is terminated from the company, giving specific reasons which relate to the Level 2 written reminder. The manager, in conjunction with Human Resources, is responsible for all termination and severance arrangements.

For in-depth coverage of this subject, read Rightful Tennination: Avoiding Litigation, by Ron Visconti and Richard Stiller, Crisp Publications.

Termination in Tough Situations

In order to avoid a wrongful discharge suit against the company, a manager should follow the required disciplinary action steps listed previously. However, in the following situations, a manager may consider the immediate suspension ofthe employee, with termination as a possibility pending an investigation. Check your company policy on these situations before taking action.

  • Theft of company property
  • Intentional damage to company property
  • Hostile relationships with customers
  • Criminal behavior
  • Insubordination
  • Any violence or threats of violence by an employee against the life, health, well-being, family, or property of others, made while on the company premises, at company functions, or in other circumstances, which may have an adverse impact on the company's ability to do business. An investigation will need to be conducted to detennine if termination will occur.

When Terminating a Potentially Violent Employee

Do Not: 

  • Conduct the discussion if you are the target of an employee's threats or obsessions. Find a human resources professional to conduct the session.
  • Negotiate over anything.
  • Argue with the employee about the company, management, etc.
  • Get into specifics about the past behavior.
  • Make threats.
  • Hurt the employee's self-esteem.
  • Discuss how the employee could have the job back.
  • Use threatening body language.
  • Promise special severance arrangements.
  • Allow your own emotions to take over.


  • Treat the individual with respect and dignity.
  • Try to stay calm. Rehearse ahead oftime and write down what you will say.
  • Prepare for the worst realistic outcome-just in case. If the potential for violence is high, have internal security personnel nearby or even in the room.
  • State your understanding of the situation (bizarre behavior, threats, altercations, etc.), based on your investigation.
  • Keep the discussion short and general, focusing on company policy. State, "We have no choice but to (suspend or teminate) you due to unacceptable behavior according to our company policies."
  • Let the person know that you think he will behave in a professional manner.
  • Describe the severance arrangements and logistics.
  • Collect all company property-keys, access cards, etc. Make sure the termination is complete .
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