Why IT Managers Are Getting Rid Of Negative Feedback

Are IT Managers going soft in their employee performance reviews?
Are IT Managers going soft in their employee performance reviews?
Image Credit: Angela

How do you feel about giving performance reviews to the members of your IT team each year? If you are like most of us, these are a big deal – you’ve got a lot of information to communicate and you are going to have to work to say it correctly. Most of us view this review meeting as an opportunity to point out to our team members what they can do better in the upcoming year. However, at a lot of firms we’re being told to change our ways – drop the negativity!

Why Firms Are Losing The Negative Review

I can remember back in the days when I was coming up through the ranks. The annual performance review was not something that I looked forward to. It was always a nail-biting experience in which I had to suffer through my manager telling me what I had not done well during the past year. Who wants to hear that? It turns out that IT managers are being told that the answer to this question is “nobody”. They are being told to tone down the negative part of their performance reviews and boost the positive parts.

The motivation for this change in behavior is that firms have discovered that negative reviews only serve to crush employee’s confidence and contribute to eroding confidence. The problem is that when an IT manager spells out what an employee has been doing things wrong, what will happen is that the employee may not be motivated to change. Instead, they just shrug and tell themselves “this is who I am”.

The results of a negative review session have been well known for some time now. In some cases, employees who got negative reviews would end up leaving the company. In other cases, employees who got negative reviews would be rattled for days or even weeks after the review meeting. Clearly these are not things that are going to contribute to an IT department that is going to be able to move faster and do more.

What Kind Of Review Are We Supposed To Give?

Those of us who have gone through year after year of negative reviews have now become accustom to giving negative reviews. When our company tells us that we need to stop giving these types of reviews, we can be left feeling a bit confused. What are we supposed to do now?

What we’re being told to do now is to ease up on the negative parts of the yearly review meeting. Instead, we are being asked to dole out frequent praise and ask our employees to celebrate small victories. When we do have performance review meetings with them we are being instructed to base them on each worker’s particular strengths. The reason is because the hard-edged tactics that have been used in the past have been shown to not work.

The instructions that are being handed down IT managers are to only talk about one or two areas where an employee can improve. We need to be careful here and not eliminate negative feedback all together. The reason is because some employees respond better to negative feedback than positive feedback. Additionally, if an employee’s behavior is causing problems, it really does need to change.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

The traditional annual performance review where IT managers would focus on what an employee could do better next year is in the process of going away. Firms are now recommending that we instead spend more time telling our employees what they did right. This changes everything.

The reason that the negative part of an annual performance review is going away is because of the impact that it has been found to have on employees. Many employees would obsess over what they did wrong last year. Many others would be shaken up and their performance would go down for a while. The new approach is to focus on what an employee has done correctly. The goal is to provide them with praise for their accomplishments.

This concept of providing employees with more positive feedback is probably a good thing. Nobody needs to be told that they’ve made a lot of mistakes, this does nobody any good. However, IT managers need to be careful and not gloss over any problems that may exist in an employee’s performance. If they are not dealt with during a performance review then they’ll pop up and cause problems later on.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If an employee is doing something that should be changed, should you start the review with that or something else?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So IT manager, how many people are on your team? How hard is it to keep track of them and what they are currently working on? I’m willing to bet that it probably takes up most of your available time. Over at GM they just hired 8,000 new developers. How would you like to manage that team? What are they trying to accomplish?