Confidentiality During Performance Reviews

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about context of a performance appraisal  review: when I went to close the door, he said to leave it open, so it stayed half-opened, half closed.

I just completed my Performance Appraisal review with my boss this morning. In the past (with previous Managers as well as the current one), our performance meetings were held behind closed doors, for confidentiality purposes. Today was different – when I went to close the door, he said to leave it open, so it stayed half-opened, half closed. He then proceeded to open the door all the way. My reviews aren’t very negative; I barely get feedback at all. I describe my job (note: I am the only one who holds my position, in an office of 10 employees) and what I do on a daily basis, reminding him of the tasks I accomplish and even those beyond my job description as “added value” (such as assisting with computers, and software).

Everyone elses’ performance review today was held with the door closed. I feel cheated as though he felt the need to “air out my dirty laundry” regarding some tasks that fell to the wayside due to an employee being on leave (tasks I was not aware I had to pick-up). Also, he offered very few comments other than the task slip-up and nothing was given in writing.

As per previous practice, which is an organization-wide procedure, managers are to give written comments to which the employee responds. I was asked to provide comments without him having written anything – which makes me wonder if he will be adding anything that I will not have been made aware. Call me paranoid, but there have been serious trust issues with this manager in the past, as well as harassment (him yelling at me for no good reason, among other bigger issues). How can I insure his written comments reflect those received orally during the meeting? How or on what do I comment when he has not yet made his statement? (He would be the type to sneak by some negative comments, then come back to say “well, I told u…..”) I thank you for your insight!

Signed, Can’t Trust THE Man

Dear Can’t Trust THE Man:

You are right: trust matters, especially trust in a superior. Regarding the open-door performance appraisal, you can inquire of Human Resources about your workplace’s protocol. The open door for you and not others doesn’t seem right. You can also ask about being asked to respond to only his oral and no written evaluation. HR can clarify this matter, but I wouldn’t hesitate to speak to this man about this too. You have a voice and that is your way to assert your concerns; possibly a candid open or closed door session with him could begin to re-establish what is a distant boss-bossed relationship.

Performance evaluations at their best are two-way surfacing how a boss sees and wants and how the how bossed wants to be seen and wants to be communicated with. Here is a time to talk about what has not been going well and what could be better. Such a session need not be seen as adversarial, but as motivated by what doesn’t seem right to you and what you think should be the way you communicate with each other.

In short this could be a time to establish do and don’t rules about your two-way working relationship. Does this make sense? Approach it as what I call WEGO. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what you want for yourself and for him, for you both to have a trusting working relationship. Sometimes there are reasons for keeping a door open, particularly when a boss has been accused of inappropriate actions. I doubt that this is the case.

William Gorden