Accepting the Challenge: Performance Evaluations

By Daniel Pena, ESO Communications Intern

Those in supervisor positions at UHD know, and sometimes dread, conducting yearly Employee Performance Evaluations. Despite the apparent difficulties faced when conducting these evaluations, one UHD supervisor, Pat Ensor, takes these evaluations as a challenge to improve her employees and herself in the process.

Pat Ensor, Executive Director, W.I. Dykes Library

“They are vital.” Ensor, W.I. Dykes Library Executive Director, said. Evaluations provide the key steps needed to achieve success and gain the productivity managers seek from their employees. “You need to carve out time… even if it means scheduling time out of your own calendar. Employees need that.”

However, Ensor readily admits there is a level of difficulty in knowing how to analyze someone’s performance. The right words to express when writing a performance evaluation is the most important, if not the most difficult, part of the process.

From Ensor’s approach, the written portion of an evaluation pre-meditates the success of the employee evaluation meeting and starts with analyzing an employee’s self-appraisal.

“It takes time. I generally read through their self-appraisal and give it a little thought, in particular to the goal setting that is in place and how it fits with what the library is doing,” Ensor said. It is important to remember only once your department goals have been reviewed, an overall assessment of your employee’s performance should be determined.

During the process, Ensor said she understands emotions can get the best of supervisors and how they feel about an employee. However, she cautions steering away from them to ensure they do not set the middle ground for the evaluation process.

“Getting an overall assessment of the person is important, so that you’re not just reacting to what they might have done recently,” Ensor said. Revisiting a performance evaluation is needed if one’s emotions are interfering with the evaluation process. According to Ensor, it is important to not only do one employee’s evaluation and send it off, but rather to complete all of them to make sure it’s still what you want to say.

According to Ensor, the focus should be placed first on the positive things an employee is achieving.

“Start by talking about the positive things. I try to couch things, even areas where development is needed, to couch in positive terms.” Ensor said. There is importance in keeping the meeting with an employee a positive one, especially as a way to achieve continued success within your department.  So many things can be said within an employee performance interview, but it’s not so much the quantity but rather quality of it that deems important to get across, according to Ensor.

George Bernard states, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Ensor emphasized she is very keen on the power of words and how she would never think of using the concept of a weakness when an employee is constantly in a developing process. The way in which something is said to an individual can have either a positive or negative effect, which is why it’s important to understand employee evaluations should be practiced throughout the entire year and not only once a year.

The key lies within an individual’s personality, according to Ensor. Everyone is different; therefore. once you have identified an individual’s personality, you can proceed what words to say.

“I send my evaluations to the employee 24 hours in advance before I have the meeting set so that they can look at it and think about it,” Ensor said. She said she believes an employee should receive their evaluation in advance so they can be receptive to what will be addressed during the in-person meeting.

When it comes to performance evaluations, not all feedback can be positive. Negative feedback during an evaluation process can be hard to digest, especially when it’s not something the individual wants to hear. No one wants to hear negative feedback, according to Ensor.

Despite the difficulty negative feedback brings, Ensor said, “It’s not fair to an employee not to tell them what the issues are, because how can they improve if they don’t know that.”

“I let the employee get the chance to be heard, and if they become emotional, I am understanding of that. It’s important to give your employee the chance to be heard during these kinds of meetings,” Ensor said.

When this happens, Ensor said she believes in giving someone their space. She does this to the extent where if an individual becomes too emotional during a meeting, she will reschedule the meeting so it is easier to facilitate a solution when emotions are less involved.

To reduce the surprises an evaluation can bring, Ensor said she encourages managers help ease the process by assessing their employee regularly throughout the year instead of only once at the end of the year to improve understanding.

Despite the challenges Ensor endures with performance evaluations, she chooses to look at them as a means for employee and self-improvement rather than a burden and believes this attitude contributes positively to her employees’ performance and the library’s success.

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