What Should I Do If An Employee Starts To Cry During His Performance Evaluation Meeting?

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It's uncommon for an employee to become so emotional during a performance appraisal that he or she begins to cry. It's more likely to happen during termination meetings, but you should still have some idea about how to handle these awkward situations. Here's some advice.

First, it's important that you, as a manager, reflect on how and what you've said. We'd hope that managers don't do things that provoke emotional reactions of this type, but it is possible that you've been overly harsh in how you said things. So, you may want to think (at least after the meeting) about your own actions, to rule out their contributions, and to guide your future practice.

But what do you do on the spot? We suggest that you follow the general approach often used by counsellors and therapists, which is to hand the person a box of tissues, and wait. Often silence is a better approach than jumping in immediately, and it's good to be aware that your natural reaction will be to over-manage the situation. Give the person time to calm down before jumping in verbally.

If what has been discussed in the meeting is relatively benign, you can also reassure the person about the meaning of the evaluation, and explain how they can alter their situation. Crying is often a frustration response, or a response born of a sense of lack of control. Provide a sense that the employee can exert control over his or her work situation.

Please remember that as a manager, you are neither trained in counselling or therapy. Don't enter into conversations of any depth about the situation, except to get enough information to be able to refer or suggest sources of help, if the employee is open to them. Show interest and concern, but recognize your limitations.


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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.


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  • Performance management and appraisal MUST be a partnership between manager and employee where BOTH benefit.
  • Performance management can be the lever for improved employee engagement.
  • The review process is the LEAST important part of performance management
  • If managers aren't managing employee performance, why are they there?

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