Monday, May 3, 2010

Performance reviews and workplace bullies

Can you use the performance process to help a workplace bully curb his or her behavior? Well, they can be very helpful if you’re paying attention to ensuring a positive and healthy culture. Developing a performance evaluation process that includes civility is not too difficult (although changing the bully’s behavior will of course be a challenging process, but worth it in the end).

Many organizations use the performance evaluation process as a once per year thing that everyone despises. Managers hate the process of telling employees they are not meeting goals, and employees of course dread those types of conversations. After a few weeks they’ve forgotten what it is they were supposed to work on and return to normal anyway. This isn’t helpful to the employee, the manager, or the organization.

In order to adjust any type of behavior, whether bullying or not, employee evaluations should be held at a minimum once per quarter. They should also not focus only on what’s going wrong, but should place a focus on what is going right. So don’t forget to talk about where the employee is excelling too.

Before you start the process, you must first develop a list of competencies that are simple and unambiguous, and describe expectations for performance and behavior. Here are some examples of competencies that would be useful for eradicating bullying behavior:

• Communication: Addresses others with an encouraging and positive attitude. Listens to other ideas different from his or her own with an open-mind. Avoids raising his or her voice when frustrated and demonstrates professionalism at all times. Maintains confidentiality of information where required and handles sensitive information with tact.

• Conflict resolution: Understands the value of listening to differences of opinion. Seeks solutions to resolve conflict with a focus on maintaining the relationship. Avoids attacking individuals during periods of conflict, and focuses instead on developing an amicable solution to the issue.

• Collaboration: Seeks out the opinions of others before making decisions that will impact them. Encourages open discussions about issues and searches for innovative solutions. Avoids gossiping or humiliating others.

• Assertiveness: Demonstrates ability to express opinions and convictions in a professional manner and without putting other opinions down. Displays confidence during interactions and deals constructively with other’s differences of opinions.

During reviews, provide the employee a minimum five examples of specific situations where these behavior-based competencies and other performance-based competencies you developed were demonstrated. Describe the positive impact or outcome for the organization as a result of meeting that competency.

After discussing strengths, discuss a maximum of three areas for improvement. Focus on the one major area the employee should work on, particularly their interpersonal skills if the employee is a bully. Be very specific about situations where competencies were not met, how they are harmful for the organization, and what changes you would like to see. Provide clear examples of what “doing it right” would look like. Connect “doing it right” to positive outcomes for the organization.

Next, provide the employee with SMART goals for their behavior change. SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Timeline. A bully needs to know what the specific behavior change should look like, how it will be measured, that it is possible to change and you believe in their ability to do so, and by when the change should take place.

Of course bullies cannot change overnight, so your timeline is going to have to be made up of baby steps. If it appears the bully is left unsure of how to change his or her behavior, you may need to bring in a communication skills coach, or even provide a high-level organizational mentor, to help the individual meet these goals.

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