Ugh, the dreaded performance review.
If you’re an INFP personality type who manages other people, chances are you hate conducting performance reviews as much as others despise sitting through them.
But here’s a little secret: Almost no one enjoys doing performance reviews. They’re time-consuming and surveys have shown that most people feel they have little value. For INFPs, though, they’re extra difficult because they go against your nonjudgmental nature. Finding fault with people on purpose??? Looking for what someone has done wrong??? That’s just not you.
The positive side of performance reviews
It might help you to think of performance reviews as another form of encouragement. After all, providing support and helping people to see the possibilities are part of what make you a special - and unusual - kind of boss. Instead of seeing the review as looking for what someone did wrong, think of it as examples of where they have opportunities to learn and grow. You’re not finding fault with them; you’re finding out where they can soar.
Performance reviews aren’t meant to be all negative anyway. A negative review just makes people feel bad about themselves and their job, and probably about their boss and the company, too.
What’s in, what’s out in performance reviews
If you’ve only ever experienced one type of performance review, you may be surprised to know that in the human resources field there are three, five, six, eight or as many as 12 types of performance appraisals depending on which article you read or “expert” you listen to. Search the internet and you’ll come across the behavioral rating scale, the checklist, employee ranking, essay, management by objective (MBO) and many more methods. Some of these have been around for decades while others are newer, and many companies use a combination of them.
It has become clear in recent years that the best performance reviews motivate employees. This is why, for example, the ranking method isn’t used much anymore, and good riddance to it. When you rank employees, only one can be on top. The person ranked two goes away wondering what the other guy has that he doesn’t; the one ranked last is demoralized; those in the middle feel mediocre even though they may be steady performers. (And even when you try to keep the actual rankings confidential, forget it. Word gets around.)
Don’t waste your time on the traditional methods that seem to have been designed to tell even the brightest stars they aren’t all that great and/or to justify giving miniscule raises. An INFP who tries to judge every employee on a checklist is going to be immensely frustrated because they see people as individuals whose contributions can’t be described by a list of skills.
The work world has changed dramatically in the last decade, too, including huge swings in employment/unemployment rates. At nearly full employment, workers were in demand and had the ability to change jobs often, which they did. In 2020, though, the COVID-19 virus devastated businesses, unemployment rates rose significantly, and many workers became less particular about where they work as long as they have a job that pays their bills.
Still, from an employer’s or manager’s perspective, you want to keep your best employees, not lose them because they feel unappreciated. This is especially true if you’re trying to operate with a reduced staff because each person must do well in order to sustain and grow business.
Many companies have moved from the formal, annual performance appraisal to informal, mini monthly or quarterly reviews. This is welcome news to INFPs, who dread big, formal, tense to-do’s. You can be your encouraging true self, praising employees for what they’re doing well, while helping them with what isn’t working.
These mini reviews are more like checkpoints on how things are progressing as well as whether employees are happy or not, and why. While monthly check-ins don’t always come with raises, they offer opportunities for feedback - which makes employees feel heard - and raise red flags that you may be able to fix before a valuable employee quits.
Newer appraisal types focus on an employee’s strengths rather than pointing out weaknesses. This is welcome news to INFPs, who innately look for the good in people. Consider how to help each person maximize their strengths, though, if you’re to improve your department’s and the company’s bottom line.
Two types of performance appraisals can be tools in helping you decide what to discuss with each employee:
- Self appraisals.
- 360 appraisals.
In self appraisals, you ask employees - before a performance review - what they think they’ve done well over the past quarter, for example. What are they most proud of? Ask them not to just name a project, but give examples of pieces of the project they did especially well. This gives you insight into their perceptions, and you may find they’re hugely proud of something you completely overlooked. You can also ask them periodically what they’d like to be doing in the company within the next six months or year so you can be sure you’re on the same wavelength.
The 360 appraisal invites input from people surrounding the employee. Ask coworkers to describe what they like about working with each other, again giving specifics. What’s especially valuable about the 360 review is that you can see how well people work together. If two employees have very little to say about what went well when they worked together, that could be a sign that they’re oil and water and shouldn’t be paired on projects. Then again, sometimes oil and water are just the right mix for dynamic results, as long as the two aren’t too frustrated and stressed when they work together.
If you have employees who also manage others, invite input from those they supervise. When was he particularly strong at helping you overcome an obstacle in your work? Is he open to suggestions of different ideas? If so, when?
Be sure to use the same type of review for all employees during one review period. Otherwise, there will be cries of “not fair!” and, realistically, it isn’t fair to study one employee by one method and another using a different method.
And then, there’s your sanity to think of. It’s tough enough to keep multiple performance reviews straight in your mind without mixing up your methods.
Use the review that suits you
If you could design the performance review of your dreams - one that you’d be comfortable using and would benefit employees - what would it look like? What information would you gather, and what would you convey to each employee? No idea is too outlandish because this is your dream.
Traditional performance reviews are currently under review because they don’t work anymore, if they ever did. So this is the ideal time to pick and choose pieces of any method or totally invent your own.
If you work for an employer who uses one type of review companywide, and it doesn’t work for your management style, challenge it. Explain why your method will improve morale and motivate people to use their strengths to benefit the company’s bottom line.
Don’t accept “because we’ve always done it this way” for an answer, not that an INFP would. Sticking with tradition for no good reason is like nails on a chalkboard to most INFPs. Now more than ever, businesses need exciting, new ideas that rock the boat and get it headed in the right direction, and it’s you and your motivated team who will steer it.