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Anonymous Performance Reviews: Should I Be Worried?

Dear J.T. & Dale: I've worked at a business for five years, and we've gotten performance reviews once a year. This year, the owners want the workers to review their managers anonymously. What's the purpose of this? I and other co-workers have yet to have our reviews, and we're worried that these submissions will not really be anonymous. There are a lot of secretive things going on, and we think our business is for sale. Any thoughts? - Janie J.T.: The request for anonymous feedback could be a sincere desire to improve morale, perhaps with an aim to reducing turnover, or it could be part of coming managerial changes, possibly even new ownership. DALE: Let's go ahead and assume that asking for employees' opinions is a good thing. Let's further assume that NOTHING IS ANONYMOUS. Even without names, your manager will be working to figure out who said what. In fact, one potential problem is someone else's criticisms being mistakenly assigned to you. It happens. That's why I'd urge you to put your name on the review. Not only does it prevent confusion, but it makes you seem candid, open and forthright. J.T.: The real question is, "What do you write?" You keep it positive. Identify what you like about the management team and its contribution to the success of the business. If you must point out negatives, offer suggestions for improvement. DALE: Whoa. If you must point out negatives, sit down at home and write up a detailed list. Get it all out. Then carefully fold the list, put it in the barbecue grill, light it on fire and use the flame to toast a marshmallow. I say that because this type of management review is NOT the time to complain. Your suggestions should be raised in a conversation with your boss, not in a written form that is going over and around your boss. J.T.: However, this could be an opportunity. The secret to criticizing management is to offer up solutions that you are willing to help execute. That way, it doesn't appear that you are blaming, but rather, you're offering constructive solutions and volunteering to do the work to make them a success. DALE: I'd say the secret to criticizing management is to make it about the company's customers/users and to start the conversation with, "Would it help our customers if..." That's how you elevate the discussion from complaining to helping. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Anonymous performance review image from Shutterstock