Expert Advice

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2005

Q. I'm getting ready to conduct performance appraisals on my employees. How do I make sure they are received well by my employees and effective at the same time?

Heather Vogel, SPHR, consultant, trainer and motivator, responds: Ever judge a book by its cover? When it comes to employee appraisals, judging performance by personality is a big no-no. Done correctly, appraisals are a great way to share a frank assessment of employee performance. To do this right, though, you need to first establish trust by providing continuous coaching and honest feedback.

A Gallup poll found that "knowing what is expected of me" is the No. 1 impact on employee performance. Make sure your employees know what is expected of them by describing performance in MOB terms: measurable, observable and behavioral. Then, when evaluating performance you can focus on MOB and avoid vague personality statements like "You're just not a people person."

Finally, plan for the appraisal. Ask yourself questions such as, "What contributions are or should employees be making? Are employees working near their potential? Do employees know clearly what is expected? What strengths do employees have that I can build on?" Jotting down notes about performance based on these questions makes developing the appraisal a snap.

Heather Vogel can be reached at (941) 750-8784 or [email protected]

Q. With WorldCom's woes making business headlines, what role can a business owner like me play in creating a more ethical business environment?

Ron Hamilton, a management and human resources consultant who works with well-known national and local organizations, weighs in: Business owners can't eliminate all possible workplace ethical dilemmas, but they can minimize the number and severity of them by developing and communicating values, codes of ethics and policies/procedures.

The development of values communicates the organization's most important beliefs-positive statements of how the organization is expected to operate and behave-in a very broad way. An example might be, "We believe that our success is contingent upon our honest practices, treating everyone fairly and with respect, and taking responsibility for our actions." The key is for the organization to act in a way that reflects the values.

A code of ethics is more specific about behaviors that would not be acceptable based on your organization's beliefs. The first thing is to determine what kinds of ethical dilemmas might be a problem for your type of business. For example, a company may have a code for conflicts of interest based on the value of honest practices. It might state, "In order to assure honest practices, employees of XYZ Company must avoid anything that creates a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, with their responsibilities at XYZ Company. This could include receiving gifts from customers or vendors, sharing confidential information and working for a competitor."

Company policies and procedures should also reflect your ethical beliefs. For example, if being courteous is a belief, then policies/procedures regarding returning calls and dealing with customers should spell out desired behaviors to support the theme of being courteous. Utilizing all of these will ensure that employees will have a better understanding of the company's expectations and a moral compass to guide them in uncharted waters.

Lastly, ethical behavior starts at the top. WorldCom had written value statements, yet that didn't prevent the problems from occurring. CEOs and business owners have to "walk the talk" and behave in a way that is consistent with the stated values.

Ron Hamilton can be reached at (941) 351-5502 or

If you have a workplace-related question you'd like to ask the experts, please e-mail Ilene Denton at [email protected]

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