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How to Tailor Employee Reviews by Personality Type

Joshua Spears

COO for Traitify | Film, Books & Animals, aspiring Kool-Aid man | Inventor/Visionary in Work

A staple of working life, the employee performance review, is something many managers approach with a sense of foreboding. Delivering critical input, for example, can make some supervisors downright uncomfortable. This is to say nothing of how time consuming they are to prepare and deliver.

Many companies, in fact, have started ditching performance reviews altogether. That may be tempting, but experts have questioned the wisdom of that approach, especially if you're not replacing it with any alternative method of evaluating your team members.

Truly effective reviews can make a powerful contribution to the success of employees and companies alike. The problem with most performance reviews today is that they're designed as one-size-fits-all, with no accommodation for different employees' work styles, based on their unique personalities. So with that in mind, I decided to contribute some tips by taking a look at the issue through the prism of personality.

1. Understand all objectives.

"Ready, fire, aim!" We've all probably (and unfortunately) been there at least once, taking action before focusing on the full task at hand and therefore missing the target. Do that with reviews and you may squander precious opportunities to grow employees as the unique individuals they are in a way that will benefit all involved.

A review can and should be about more than an employee's past performance and an adjustment in pay. It also should include forward-looking goals and steps to achieve them, tailored specifically to, and to the extent possible for, the personality in front of you. This helps to engage and develop employees, and it harnesses their innate dispositions. If the person is, say, a planner, craft goals that take advantage of his or her methodical nature, precision, and orientation toward detail.

2. Understand the person.

Although focusing only on past performance is a mistake, we all have room for improvement, and candid, constructive evaluations can guide and shape our progress and development. You need to deliver a performance assessment and outline future goals; either way, though, you need to be keenly aware, again, of who exactly you're talking to in order to increase the likelihood that you're being heard and understood.

The great writer George Bernard Shaw said it best: "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." Just because you've composed and delivered a comprehensive evaluation report to an employee doesn't mean he or she "got it." With a better understanding of who employees are, including how they receive and respond to input, you can tailor your message for maximum and positive effect.

So dust off and review the personality assessment you received on the employee during the interview process, or (if you haven't already done so) consider administering a personality test now. The personality assessment should be used as a key piece of information as you set goals and potential roles for employees, and it can likewise be woven into the review process.

3. Tailor your message.

Be aware that a review, depending on how it is constructed and conveyed, may very well trigger an employee's fight-or-flight response - an involuntary reaction to perceived danger. While the instinct can serve us well in our effort to remain safe and alive, it's probably not going to promote a successful review. Harness what you know about your team member's personality in order to keep that switch in the off position. Some people are simply more sensitive than others to perceived criticism. That's not to say you shouldn't deliver constructive feedback to more sensitive employees; but it does mean that tailoring your message around how the employee can improve in any area of deficiency, rather than on the deficiency itself, per se, is even more important with employees who respond better to positive feedback. Bottom line: Understand your audience and craft your message accordingly.

4. Remember to follow up.

As much as supervisors and employees may want to get the review process over and done with, it truly is an ongoing undertaking. There should be meaningful follow-up to the review paperwork and meeting - but, again, that follow-up is most successful if it's tailored to the specific employee's personality. If the employee's personality profiles as inventor, for example, maybe you harness her creativity and penchant for the unconventional by asking her to develop of an innovative new plan to get where she's headed.

Thomas Edison observed that "opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Employee reviews represent a tremendous opportunity to drive employee performance, build better teams and to reduce turnover. But achieving success takes work - and thoughtfulness. If we can be of any assistance with this vital effort, don't hesitate to contact us.

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