How To Handle Disagreement On Goals During A Performance Review

Disagreement on Goals Mary Rafferty Consensus Mediation

You probably have recently completed a performance review with all your team members, or maybe it’s still on your ToDo list. Either way, the task of planning work for the coming year is now on the horizon. So how do you have a discussion with the employee where you are anticipating they might be resistant to the goals or direction that is required from them?

Prepare for the review in advance

  • Get crystal clear on what the intention or reasons around these are and how this fits into the overall aims/strategy of the organisation. If you are unclear or lack belief yourself, as to why or what needs to be done then it will be very difficult to communicate this to someone else in a credible way.
  • Put yourself in the employee’s shoes in a way that you get a real sense of what such a change might mean for them. The more insight you have as to how they might perceive and feel about it, the better you will be able to listen to this in a way that doesn’t trigger frustration or defensiveness on your part. You need to be able to be objective and open rather than reactive during the meeting.

Listening rather than talking

State what needs to happen – your expectations, the rationale for this in a friendly and informal way and then invite their views on it.

Don’t get into a long-winded lecture type explanation, which while is tempting (wanting to justify and persuade) but will serve only to shut down the person.

Focus on what the key essentials are in terms of deliverables and why they are important. Leave as much room as possible for the employee to explore the ‘how’

Tease out resistance

In terms of a gap between each of your viewpoints, the main focus needs to be on ensuring you bring out, acknowledge and explore in an honest way what their resistance might be about.

You need to ask heir views in way that gets across your willingness to hear what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with it.

With someone who is hesitant, you might even prompt them by saying ‘I can appreciate this isn’t what you were expecting and I’d like to hear what you think about this’.

Then acknowledge this and demonstrate empathy with their concerns – real, not fake ‘I-read-this-in-a-management-manual’ empathy.

Explore and empathise

Exploring in detail what their concerns are about is a crucial step. Again, the temptation is to cut to the chase and simply respond by saying ‘well there is no choice, this has to happen’.

That’s the reality, sure and even the employee knows that, but in spending time talking through with the person what their genuine concerns and anxieties are about you accomplish a number of things:

  • You demonstrate your genuine support and interest in them and the challenges of their job
  • In doing this, you build trust and willingness on their part to engage with you
  • You get to hear in more detail about the reality and challenges that you may not even have been aware of e.g. glitches elsewhere in the system, lack of knowledge and be able to offer support, advice or other resources in helping resolve these
  • You allow them to vent, which is an important step in moving past the emotional side (resentment, frustration, irritation) of resistance.

Help them see it from your viewpoint

Now you outline your requirements, explaining what’s important to you/the business and why. Try to be as open and honest as you can in terms of what your key concerns are, the underlying thinking and needs that are behind what you would like to achieve.

Help them also to see benefits for them in terms of the goal you are setting, e.g. “You have said it’s important to you that you build your skills in X area – this will give you an opportunity to…”

Point out any areas of common ground that both of you might have e.g. ‘Tom you are concerned that this will mean you have less time to concentrate on your report writing. That’s a concern for me also so we let’s take a closer look at how that can best be managed’

Refer back to the other concerns they outlined and say you are open to seeing how best you can both address these.

Work together to find solutions

Once all the concerns on both your and their side are fully identified and explored you then move into a collaborative, problem-solving focus.

The essential question is ‘given the concerns they have and the needs that the business/department has, how best might this goal be achieved.

The aim of this question is not so much to get into micro-management of the detail but more to identify ways to overcome barriers to getting there.

Ensure you have SMART outcomes

Part of this action-oriented stage also involves pinning down some criteria around what successfully achieving this goal will look like.

Again, go back to questions and reflective listening to help engage them in shaping as much as possible the detail around this.

Try and formulate outcomes that are Specific, Measured, Timebound, etc.

Long term pay off

Effective goal setting can be a delicate dance of understanding, communicating and agreeing. Done without skilful planning and careful thought it can be a challenging and energy sapping process.

However done well it will pay dividends in terms of employee motivation and deliverables for your team and organisation.

In addition it will make the next end of year appraisal a more straightforward, rewarding and even enjoyable process.