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May 2004 Issue

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Management Strategies & Tips

By Jan Norton, Missouri Western State College

Email: norton@mwsc.edu

Psychic Evaluations

It's that time of year again for many of us: time to prepare annual employee evaluations. I hope that for most of you, these are good experiences because you have an excellent staff and because you've kept little notes all year long about issues "good and maybe not so good" that you want to discuss with each person. I actually do look forward to evaluating my staff because I have plenty of specific good things to say about each person's work during the past year. 

I take each of my employees to lunch in order to review the evaluation. (They pick the restaurant; I certainly hope that my staff likes this process to some degree and don't merely tolerate me as a lunch date they can't get out of.) Their performance evaluations are in-progress drafts at that point, something to be discussed and modified during our lunch so I can polish it later. Sometimes I ask them to fill out their own evaluations, and we bring together our two views about the past year. It is interesting to see what they predict I will say, and for me to see how well my perceptions of their work match with their own. If our visions don't match well, I know that better communication is one of next year's job goals for both of us. 

One reason I like to get away from the office is just the freedom to talk without other staff members watching the evaluation take place. Plus, it's easier to dream about possibilities when you're not surrounded by messy desks, 'to do' lists, budget woes, or other dream-damping realities. If I'm going to spend time focusing on the past year, I want to balance that with some predictions for the year to come. Try asking your employees what they want next year's evaluation to be like. If they could look one year into the future, what will you say about them? If your employees aren't used to imagining the future, be sure to have some ideas ready about professional development opportunities, modifying procedures, tutor training topics, options for new services, and so forth. 

In some ways, this kind of evaluation process is just another way to talk about planning and objectives. But when the discussion occurs within the context of a positive performance review, it seems to encourage some more idealistic and self-strengthening goals. I would urge us all to do the same kind of self-evaluations: what do we want to be able to say about ourselves in May 2005?

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