Updated: Apr 23, 2019
One of our employees is under a new manager, who has given the employee a negative review. This is out of sync with previous appraisals. As part of human resources, how should I handle this? Question the review or butt out?
— Quizzical, human resources, nonprofit, Greensboro, North Carolina
You are right to ask a few questions, and you are likely to find one of the following answers: The employee and manager are working out mutual expectations for performance. The manager may have higher (or just different) standards for the employee’s performance than the prior manager, and he or she is simply establishing a new level for achievement. You may need to offer some coaching or support to help the employee meet the new requirements.The employee and manager are having some problems getting along. This might be a simple matter of a difference in communication style between the manager and the employee, or it could be a more significant difference. Either way, you may be able to help the manager and employee develop a better appreciation for their differences.The employee’s performance may have hit a “bump in the road.” If the employee has delivered a lower level of performance than usual, you and the manager may want to offer some coaching to help the employee get back on track. It’s not unusual to have some variation in performance, so it may help to offer a bit of encouragement to both the manager and the employee. When coaching employee performance, your job is to help the manager and the employee work out the problem. Be sure to enlist the manager’s help, and focus on offering support and encouragement. Sometimes just opening the door a crack to let the light in is enough.
Start by asking the manager about the review. The manager may have a handle on the situation, but your support and positive approach can go a long way toward helping the employee succeed.