Sitting in Caffe Nero a few days ago I had the uncomfortable experience of watching and hearing a loud and brash young manager (unintentionally, I think) humiliating a soft-spoken direct report.
As appraisals go it was a pretty thorough example of how not to do it.
There was no quality of rapport. The manager was clicking his pen, constantly shifting his position in his chair, bouncing his knees under the table as if to an internal fast paced rhythm, he’d start off his very loud comments by looking briefly at his victim and then continue the comments in a quite mechanical manner while gazing out the window beside their table, as if reciting a rehearsed spiel.
He (we’ll call him Jack) demonstrated no attempt to understand the other person’s (let’s call him Mohan) viewpoint and in fact showed little interest in Mohan at all.
Instead it appeared to be a matter of getting Mohan to write down his comments as his own self-assessment. Comments which Jack the manager, while not actually dictating, was definitely steering in the direction that he considered best through comments such as “write this down” or “put this in your own words”.
Other standard appraisal-comments were thrown in such as the string of questions “So, what’s your assessment of yourself… what do you think… how do you think you been doing, since you began here?”
Mohan’s soft-spoken and therefore inaudible response was frequently punctuated by Jank’s nodding and absent-minded “yep, yep” utterances – absent-minded because he’d be looking out the window as he was making them, jiggling or bouncing his knees, frequently shifting his position in the chair, and clicking his pen – almost as if he was uninterested, going through the motions, or simply didn’t see any point in the whole process.
When Mohan had finished speaking Jack responded “okay write that down” and pushed a form across the table, Mohan then spent about 10 minutes writing his views – while Jack’s distracted knee jiggling, squirming, window gazing, pen clicking continued.
The form was then taken back by Jack who scanned it and said “What you mean by minimal support? I can’t measure that! I need specifics!” Inaudible response. “Okay now write that down!”
More knee jiggling, more squirming, more pen clicking, more window gazing.
It went down along these lines for probably 20 minutes or more. At one stage I left my table which was, incidentally, about 12 feet from where they were sitting (there were other people sitting nearer to them) to get a glass of water. The water jug was about 25-30 feet away yet Jack’s voice was practically filling the entire room.
I looked around – there were probably 15 to 20 people in the room.