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Preparation: the interpersonal climate

We also need to consider the environment we wish to create in terms of the interpersonal climate. ‘Empathy’ and ‘rapport’ are two key words to consider here. Rapport promotes co-operation, openness and trust, and enhances all aspects of communication. Establishing rapport will put people at ease and help to create a state of relaxed concentration. This is very conducive to achieving mutually beneficial outcomes, which is precisely our goal with appraisal.

There are a number of tips and ideas that are helpful for establishing rapport and some of these are listed below, but the biggest single factor is empathy. By empathy we mean being able to see a situation through the other person’s eyes. This often requires hard work – asking a careful sequence of questions to really establish the ‘full picture’, and listening actively and attentively to both the facts and the appraisee's feelings. Once they begin to appreciate your efforts to understand their perspective on a situation, they’ll be far more receptive to your thoughts and feedback. The following are some further tips for putting the job holder at ease and establishing rapport.

  • Begin the discussion with a friendly, non-threatening question that shows interest or concern to help put the appraisee at ease 
  • Show concern for their comfort by considering the layout of the room, having water available and taking a break if the discussion becomes lengthy or ‘difficult’
  • Make sure that you talk about confidentiality and what either of you will do if you feel that this needs to be breached, including who any information might be shared with
  • You may also want to talk about any note-keeping during the appraisal and what you will do with the information that you note
  • Use open questions to raise areas for discussion and allow the appraisee a full opportunity to describe, explain and explore
  • Listen and show you are listening by giving paraphrased summaries to check your understanding of their comments
  • Avoid evaluative, judgemental language in the way you present your feedback
  • Smiling, nodding, and showing interest and that you are listening all help to maintain rapport

With an appraisal interview half the battle is to get the appraisee talking – you should be aiming for something like a 70:30 ratio in terms of the talking that occurs (that’s 70% them and 30% you). The environment, both physical and interpersonal, has an enormous influence on the degree to which the appraisee feels free to contribute.

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