MP Message / Professional Development

Evaluation Sandwich

We have begun staff reviews, going over the results of the Upwards and Downwards evaluations. The process is easy when you have only good things to say. The most challenging part, however, is discussing the negative feedback and how to present it in the most constructive way possible. A good method to consider is called the “Evaluation Sandwich” where you offer a positive comment or compliment of a strength area, followed by the negative comment or discussion of areas of improvement, followed up by another good comment. It kind of looks like this:

evaluation sandwich

Ok, stop thinking about doing a fast-food drive-thru lunch. Instead, consider these five steps for effectively handling negative feedback during the review process with your staff:

  1. Be a coach by being specific. People generally respond better to specific, positive direction. Avoid saying things like, “You need to be more talkative in meetings.” It’s too ambiguous and can be interpreted in a lot of personal ways. Say something specific and positive pointed at the task you want accomplished, such as, “You’re smart. I want to hear at least one opinion from you in every meeting we’re in together going forward.”
  2. Prepare with facts, not opinions. If you need to substantiate performance, whether exemplary and poor, it helps if you have concrete examples or quantified results to support your claim. This will go a long way in helping the staff appreciate your position and not feel they are being personally attacked if the feedback is negative, or having a false sense of confidence when the feedback is very positive and they are not sure why.
  3. Keep it professional and show respect. Stick with issues related to the person’s performance and conduct in the workplace. Don’t raise your voice, make personal attacks, use sarcasm or belittle. Speak with respect.
  4. Give the other person the opportunity to respond. Feedback is a two-way street, so don’t forget to listen to what the other person has to say. Remain silent and meet the other person’s eye, indicating that you are waiting for an answer. If the person hesitates to respond, ask an open ended question. For example: “What do you think?” “What is your view of this situation?” “What is your reaction to this?” “Tell me, what are your thoughts?”
  5. End with encouragement. At the conclusion of the performance meeting, which also marks the end of one performance cycle and the beginning of the next, your job is to encourage. You want to motivate the staff member to continue doing that which s/he does well and to improve in the areas where there is room for growth. This is the best way to make these meetings productive and positive. Even if the person’s evaluation number was not as high as s/he might have hoped, remind your staff member that s/he is still valued and that you’ll support him/her in their development.

When done constructively and honestly, the evaluation process is likely the most effective tool we offer for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of our staff in order to help them grow in their careers in a positive, productive direction. If you are on the receiving end of an evaluation, please keep in mind that any and all constructive comments for improvement are done to improve your performance, and increase the value you can provide to the firm and yourself. We are all working towards helping each other’s careers and build our firm together.

We see this as an opportunity to help put our staff and our firm in a position of strength.

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