Improving the Employee-Manager Relationship Via Performance Reviews

by Mike Tannian on July 19, 2022

Learn how your public sector agency can improve employee-manager relationships by implementing standardized, 360-degree performance reviews.

Article Highlights

The manager and employee relationship is critical to organizations of every size. Positive relationships encourage productivity and collaboration between employees, and the organization can function at optimal capacity. Mutual respect in the manager and employee relationship makes employees more effective in work performance, goal achievement, and career development.

But poor manager-employee relationships can develop if the employee doesn’t receive any feedback about their work. They have no idea where they stand, whether they're doing a good job, or if their work is having an impact – especially in the public sector. In these situations, annual 360-degree performance reviews aren't enough. The infrequency of feedback lowers morale, hurts the company culture, and creates a poor employee experience that leads to high turnover.

Fostering a healthy relationship happens when the manager provides candid feedback to the employee through regular performance appraisals and 360-degree employee reviews by managers and other team members. This article will focus on the importance of manager-employee relationships and regular feedback. Then, we’ll discuss how your organization can improve both with Perform, NEOGOV’s employee relationship management software.

The Problem: Poor Manager-Employee Relationships

A positive relationship between managers and employees makes employees feel appreciated and more engaged with their work. Engaged employees are not only more productive and effective – they're also more likely to stay at your organization. Lower turnover means less budget spent on recruitment and onboarding, and also helps your organization retain valuable institutional knowledge. 

On the other hand, poor relationships between managers and employees lead to increased dissatisfaction and less productivity. Employees are more likely to leave, or worse, do the bare minimum that's expected of them. They’ll perform below expectations and drag down morale for other team members while remaining in their job, meaning you can't replace them with more motivated employees.

Common factors that lead to poor employee-manager relationships

While poor employee and manager relationships can stem from various places, it's important to understand the most common factors that cause workplace tension so you know how to mitigate them in your organization.

Rushed hiring 

Establishing relationships between employees and managers often starts with the hiring process. Managers are often pressed to hire for specific skills or experiences and may fail to notice potential attitude problems. But it's easier to teach someone hard skills centered around technical capabilities than it is to teach them soft skills like "empathy, self-awareness, altruism or an amenable personality."

Recency bias

There can also be a problem with recency bias in traditional performance reviews. One of the difficulties with annual reviews is that managers tend to only remember the last couple of months of a person's performance. (This also happens with peers and partners during 360-degree performance reviews – people just don't remember further back than a couple of months.) That means the big successes an employee had 11 months ago are often forgotten, while their mistakes from two weeks ago are top of mind.

This leads to a narrow view of employee performance. The employee thinks management only has a "what have you done for me lately?" attitude and ignores all the past contributions they’ve made.

Infrequent review periods

Very often, there are vague and infrequent review periods. Many public sector agencies try to hold annual reviews and 360-degree performance reviews, but they're often forgotten or delayed if the organization hasn't committed to employee performance management.

Lack of communication

Delayed performance reviews combined with a general lack of performance communication – such as regularly providing constructive feedback to employees — can leave employees feeling unappreciated and disengaged. Even simple feedback, like thanking them for their work at the end of the day, can do a lot for employee satisfaction.

Unclear employee standing

Without any feedback or reviews, employees will feel unsure of where they stand. Are they meeting expectations? Are they fulfilling their deliverables? Is management happy with their work? If they don’t feel wanted, they won't see a reason to stick around. And that's how you'll lose your best employees, which will reduce morale and productivity.

The Solution: Employee Relationship Management Software

NEOGOV’s Perform employee performance management software helps managers provide critical employee feedback to support productivity and success. In addition, the platform lets employees set individual goals that align with the organization's goals and see how their performance stacks up against expectations.

Perform also automates and standardizes employee performance appraisals and 360-degree employee reviews, making it easier for human resources to manage annual (or more frequent) reviews. This is an important tool because it can help public sector organizations improve their performance management and feedback system.

Perform has several key features to help managers provide better feedback:

  • Journal entries: Managers can keep notes on an employee's accomplishments, strengths, and weaknesses throughout the year. Then, you can recall them all during an annual review.
  • Data from 360-degree reviews: This feature allows everyone to provide actionable feedback, which can help managers see employees from all angles.
  • Feedback management: Anonymous feedback, multi-rater feedback, peer reviews, self-reviews, and manager reviews can be made available to individual employees to read their own reviews, and they can be excerpted for annual reviews.
  • Employee surveys: You can deliver surveys to give employees 360-degree feedback without requiring reviewers. You can even send surveys to people outside the agency, such as citizens, contractors, etc.
  • Automated reviews: Perform uses performance review automation and standardization, which remove unconscious bias and make them easier to deliver and tabulate.
  • Central hub: The software is stored on a central hub to allow for documentation and easy access to employee performance data.

The Benefits of Employee Relationship Management Software

Employee relationship management software like Perform can benefit public sector organizations by fostering better working relationships and improving performance management in six central ways.

1. Improved visibility and transparency

Performance software improves visibility and transparency across your entire performance management process. This result makes managers and employees aware of performance issues early in the review process and also highlights successes worth celebrating. Providing more transparency in performance standards also enhances your employees’ understanding of organizational expectations and what they're expected to do.

2. Better communication between manager and employee

Employee relationship management software lays a healthy foundation for frequent communication between manager and employee. Ideally, your reviews and employee feedback should happen more than once a year. By enabling managers to provide feedback on the platform and letting employees enter their own accomplishments and deliverables, Perform makes it easy to provide quick and continual feedback throughout the year. Employees know where they stand all year long and won’t be surprised by their performance review feedback.

3. Proper grading and evaluation

The software ensures that employees are properly graded and evaluated with a standardized evaluation method, which reduces unconscious bias. It leaves less room for individual managers to make subjective review decisions instead of scoring evaluations on objective metrics.

4. Comprehensive view of employee performance

Standardized evaluation systems help managers develop a comprehensive view of their employees' performance. They can visualize the goal achievement results on a performance management dashboard that shows everyone's performance. This allows managers to see which goals are being met and sort them by department, date of completion, or individual employee.

5. Identify employee successes and struggles

The software creates concrete documentation of each employee's successes and struggles. If you ever need a paper trail for a performance improvement plan or a justification for a raise or promotion, all the evidence is assembled and ready to use as needed.

In addition, Perform’s dashboard gives you a balanced view of where employees are succeeding and struggling. You can quickly identify and address problem areas rather than wait for them to come to light during the annual review process. Managers and employees can both see where these struggles are taking place and make course corrections early. This keeps small problems from getting bigger, keeps goals on track, and boosts employee productivity.

6. Reduced turnover

All of this continual feedback means employees are more engaged and connected to their managers. They're more likely to discuss problems with management, who can help solve any issues. This reinforces a positive manager and employee relationship, which reduces the risk of turnover and loss of high-performing employees.

Perform also gives you concrete data to reference so you can have those difficult conversations with employees who show no interest in improving or meeting their basic performance goals. This allows you to reasonably remove poor-performing employees and hire new, motivated employees who meet your existing criteria and skill levels. 

Final Thoughts

Positive relationships between managers and employees allow public sector organizations to function more effectively. When your employees feel more appreciated, they're more engaged and driven to perform at their best. 

NEOGOV’s employee relationship management software, Perform, can help organizations create regular feedback loops and give employees clarity and insight to their own performance data and expectations. This helps employees and managers better communicate about employee performance, which improves productivity and prevents problems before they get out of hand.

Ready to start using employee goal management software to track performance management and increase employee engagement at your organization? Learn more about NEOGOV's Perform software by signing up for a free demo.

Mike Tannian

Mike Tannian is the Director of Content Marketing at NEOGOV. With a talented team of writers by his side, he aims to produce content that delivers real value to public sector HR professionals at every stage in the buying journey.