Ask an Advisor: Taking the Anxiety Out of Performance Meetings

Where would your mind go if you received a message or call that your supervisor wanted to have a performance meeting or discuss an incident with you next week? You would probably brace yourself for the worst possible scenario. Your mind might start racing, wondering what you did wrong. You might ask yourself questions like: Am I in a serious situation? Is my job on the line?

As an HR Knowledge Advisor, it’s not uncommon to get questions about how best to notify an employee of an upcoming performance meeting without causing the employee undue stress. You’ll want to have a strategy in place to address the employee’s questions, reduce anxiety and calm their fears.

Performance meetings are just plain stressful—for both parties. The employee is often nerve-racked even when they know they’re doing a good job, and the manager is preparing for possible disagreement or pushback. Anxiety is heightened even more so when there is a follow-up meeting on performance.

Even if the employer knows the discussion will likely not result in termination, they often forget to think about the employee’s perspective. By considering the employee’s viewpoint and using transparent communication, you can reduce anxiety ahead of these conversations. Be honest about the topic of the meeting and provide a clear outline—there shouldn’t be any surprises.

An employer can ease the tension of an upcoming meeting by expressing the goal of the meeting and emphasizing the importance of working together as a team. Use phrases such as “We want to discuss information to assist you with your goals,” “How can we help you do your job better?” or “We’d like to discuss a plan we’ve developed to address a situation.” You can also ask an employee to think about anything they’d like to discuss or encourage them to share this information before the meeting so you can respond appropriately.

Managers can ease stress by allowing employees to prepare with a more-informed assessment of the situation. Keeping all parties calm and focused on the true goal of the meeting will lead to better results.

If you want to know more about performance management or have other HR questions, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership!

SHRM’s Ask an Advisor service is a member benefit through which SHRM’s HR Knowledge Advisors share guidance, real-life personal and professional experiences, and resources to assist members with their HR-related inquiries.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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