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Three questions that can improve your performance reviews.

Three questions that can improve your performance reviews

The two primary objectives of a performance review interview (PRI) are to evaluate past work behavior and accomplishments, and to plan for improvements in performance. It can do more.

The PRI provides supervisors an opportunity to obtain feedback on their performance as employee supporters and counselors. If the interview goes another step further and grants bragging privileges to employees, it also strengthens morale. To accomplish these additional objectives, try incorporating the following three questions into your PRIs.

1. What gave you the most satisfaction in your job during the last year?

2. What contributions to the organization did you make as a result of your initiative?

3. How did your supervisor help you to meet performance standards, or to attain job objectives?

These questions have been in our PRI form for several years. We would now like to share the kinds of responses we have received and how they were put to practical use.

What gave you the most satisfaction in your job during the last year? Our employees' responses to this question are listed in Figure I. Employees who find their routine duties to be the most satisfying generally are less experienced, but there are exceptions. Some individuals enjoy repetitive tasks and shun new responsibilities. Promotion or job expansion is not their cup of tea.

Ruth likes sitting for hours at her microscope performing differential blood counts. She derives job satisfaction from detecting an unsuspected case of leukemia or showing co-workers an abnormal erythrocyte. When assigned to other duties, she is nervous, irritable, and less self-assured.

More interviewees welcome the opportunity to learn new procedures, participate in special activities, or teach medical technology students. Since preparation of lectures and other such tasks usually impinge on personal time, their satisfaction is not due only to escape from routine assignments. Job enrichment may be necessary to sustain the morale of these employees.

Jane, who works next to Ruth, is inclined to gripe if assigned long stretches at the microscope. She is happiest trying to run down a complex bleeding disorder.

Surprisingly, four employees mentioned "filling to for others' as highly satisfactory. Supervisors are usually apologetic when assigning substitutes, so it's nice to know that some employees welcome these assignments. Alice, for instance, always seems willing to switch afternoons off or to work overtime. Her supervisor had felt guilty asking until she learned through the questionnaire that Alice actually enjoyed filling in.

Our impression has always been that most medical technologists do not enjoy patient contact, at least when serving as phlebotomists. However, we were a bit surprised at how forcefully the findings support this impression. Only one phlebotomist listed patient contact as satisfying--little wonder turnover is so high in that group.

On the other hand, some employees reported that meeting and working with others was their most satisfying experience. To assign such social beings to solitary tasks would thus appear to be self-defeating.

In summary, this feedback helps supervisors spot employees who may become more productive if their assignments are changed. It also points to how these changes can be tailored best to each individual.

What contributions to the organization did you make as a result of your initiative? We purposely added "as a result of your initiative' to exclude pat answers like "putting in an honest day's work' or "turning out good work.' Responses highlight accomplishments initiated by employees, often without appropriate credit.

The responses are summarized in Figure II. Putting in extra hours or modifying personal work schedules leads the list. Further questioning revealed that many employees regard this as being above the usual call of duty. It is praiseworthy, but at the same time supervisors will go on to determine if the employee is too pliant and easily exploited.

A case in point: The chemistry technologists discovered that they could always call Joe at home about an instrument malfunction and get him to come in. Joe probably complains to his wife that he is being taken advantage of. He correctly feels that one of the supervisors should take over emergency troubleshooting.

The response, "being more productive,' also provides clues for further probing. Ingrid says, "When we're not busy, I always find things to do.' She may be hinting that her work group is overstaffed or that co-workers goof off when work is slack. In either case, the response should prompt her supervisor to take a second look at work schedules and employee work habits.

The response, "helping others get the work done,' may flash another message: "I am fast' or "We have some slowpokes in our group.'

We are pleased when an activity listed under "most satisfying aspects of the job' is also cited as aspects of the job' is also cited as an example of initiative. This obviously indicates that the employee is volunteering for things he or she enjoys doing. Since many of the items listed under initiative were missing under the category of "most satisfying,' we concluded that employees frequently volunteer services out of a sense of duty rather than pleasure.

A common and justified complaint of medical technologists is that they do not receive the recognition they deserve. Earlier we mentioned that a primary objective of our performance reviews is to evaluate past work behavior and accomplishments. Commendations for good service are part of the process, and employee responses to this question present occasions for praise. The supervisor is reminded or made aware of special efforts by each employee, and can underscore them.

After his performance review, Joe remarks to his wife that his supervisor was now aware of how often he returned to the laboratory to help the technologists working on the evening shift. Joe was even more pleased when the supervisor apologized and went on first call under a new policy.

How did your supervisor help you to meet your performance standards or to attain your job objectives? Although expressed in different ways, moral support heads the list of supervisory activities appreciated most by our employees (Figure III). In contrast, only six employees mentioned technical assistance. This suggests that our employees possess the necessary cognitive and psychomotor skills but need a psychological boost. Instilling confidence seems even more important than coaching.

Moral support consists of more than pep talks and sideline cheering. It calls for a supportive managerial style, especially during indoctrination of new employees and in teaching new methods and procedures. Complimenting new employees each step of the way and softening the impact of criticism are powerful morale boosters.

Moral support is undermined if egos are bruised. Employees should be protected against excessive or undeserved criticism from the medical staff, nurses, or other laboratory staff members. Finally, moral support is being available and anxious to help while also fostering self-reliance by encouraging employees to solve their own problems.

The importance attributed to work schedules came as no great surprise. Our supervisors know how important work schedules are and go to great pains to insure their fairness. It is all too easy to take advantage of nonassertive employees when it comes to vacations, overtime, and weekend or holiday assignments.

Support for continuing education is really the only form of supervisory assistance that has a price tag. Since the dollar cost may be considerable, it is understandable that a supervisor's endorsement for funding of employees' CE activities was frequently mentioned.

We were surprised that only four employees commented on communication. Behavioral analysts all stress the importance of communication to effective supervision, and one might expect that this would have been mentioned more often. Could it be that our laboratory communication system, supplemented by a good rather than harmful grapevine, is so effective that our employees take communication for granted? We hope so.

In summary, these three questions in, our performance review interview form help supervisors tailor better fits between workers and jobs, insure recognition of all special efforts by employees, and encourage supervisors to support employees and improve their own performance.

Table: Figurel; Most satisfying aspects of job

Table: Figure II; Employee examples of initiative

Table: Figure III; Supervisory help appreciated most by lab employees
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Umiker, William O.; Yohe, Sue
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jan 1, 1984
Words:1350
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