Using Performance Appraisals for Conflict Prevention

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

I recently returned from a 2-day training meeting in California on Conflict Mediation in dairy situations. I learned some very valuable techniques and methods to help to resolve conflicts. It became very clear that the individual parties have to accept responsibility in resolving their problems, and that a mediator can help them. One of the strategies I liked most was the use of performance appraisals to prevent conflicts before they happen. This technique is especially good for farm families and middle and upper management � situations where I tend to see a lot of conflict.

The process is simple, BUT requires thought and preparation on your part, as the manager, to make it work. As you will see in the 4th part of this appraisal, it also requires that you put your ego on the line a little bit if you want to make progress.

The process is to ask your employee to answer the following questions. At this time tell the employee that YOU, as the supervisor, will also be responding to the same questions, and that you both will come back together in a week or so to compare lists and discuss the responses. The questions are:

1. Please prepare a list of positive contributions you bring to the operation.

2. Please prepare a list of areas where you have improved during the past year.

3. Please prepare a list of areas where you still need to improve.

At the meeting, let the employee go over his/her list first. You can discuss items as needed. You may or may not need to add to this person�s list, but for your part the important thing to remember is to give examples to support your statements. In preparation, try to think of good things they have done and, over time, try to catch them doing good things. Unfortunately, we are very prone to catch them doing bad things and overlook the good. Use this discussion as a springboard for mutually-agreed-upon changes and improve-ments.

Finally, Question 4 (THIS IS FILLED OUT ONLY BY THE EMPLOYEE): What can I do differently as your supervisor so that you can do a better job?

This final question may be rough on the ego, so if you don�t feel like you can be objective, I would suggest having the answers to this question collected by an unbiased third-party, compiled, and then discussed with the supervisor at a later time.

The value of this system is that the self-evaluation is done by the employer as well as the employee, and if there are major differences a positive dialog has already been established allowing for constructive praise and criticism. It also allows the employee to evaluate the employer/supervisor. This may highlight developing issues that can be corrected before they get out of control and cause major conflicts. If done right, I think work performance will improve and employee turnover will decrease. I would be very interested in hearing any feedback from those of you who choose to try this process. Also, if you would like me to function as the third-party person, let me know. I think the extra time will be well spent. ©