They say it's good to talk. Communication is key in any team.

Appraisals are a major part of staff development.

If you hardly speak to your team as their senior manager or team leader, then they’ll most likely take this opportunity to air their frustrations from the past 3-12 months.

Their appraisal document becomes a copy of war and peace. The actual appraisal meeting itself goes on for more than the hour you scheduled into the diaries.

You end up spending hours talking about what’s caused these issues and try to resolve them there and then, which never happens.

By the time you come to setting objectives for the next 3 months you’re both exhausted from the process, which should of been a productive gathering.

How do you avoid your team members from becoming frustrated beyond return?

Talk to them often. Schedule a weekly catch up with each member of your team on their own. It only needs to be for 10-15 minutes. Book it in both your diaries after agreeing a time slot and hold the ‘informal chat’ away from their desks. Even take them out the office if it warrants it. A catch up in the coffee shop across the road can be more effective.

I tend to leave a gap of 10 minutes between each catch up incase they over run. I also do them all in one day. That way you’re communicating the same message. If a one to one finishes early then you can ask your team members if they want to catch up earlier. It may benefit you both. Most importantly, don’t be late. Everyone is as busy as you are.


Be There. You may want to do most of the talking to bring them up to speed with new processes or projects on the horizon. But this is for them. Try to avoid taking your laptop unless you need to present something. Else you’ll be distracted by emails and won’t be giving them 100% of your attention.

Take a note pad and document bullet points for actions required. It’s worth looking back on these notes in the next meeting to see if there’s anything still outstanding from the previous week.

Your meeting doesn’t need a strict agenda. I try to keep it flexible and relaxed. Sometimes there’s nothing to discuss. But aim to put together a list of items you’d like to cover. Else you’ll be kicking yourself because you forgot to mention something.

How’s it goes?

First get a feel for how their day and week has been progressing. They’ll either say everything is fine which is great. Or they’ll hopefully come prepared with a few issues they’d like to table which are causing them frustrations on a day to day basis.

Tackling issues

Note each one down. Then discuss in more detail. Try to find the symptom of what could be causing the issue. Then together discuss what solutions could be put in place or rolled out to avoid it being an issue any longer. Some issues may turn into a task for you.

For example, “My PC keeps shutting down every hour so I’m losing at least 45 minutes a day rebooting and getting back into my flow.” That’s 9 hours a month which is more than a full day’s work lost! So resolving this issue has to become a priority. If you hadn’t of asked then your team member they may not have raised the issue. They would of continued rebooting and becoming frustrated with it. To the point their attitude and happiness towards work changes.

Some team members may raise what I call HR issues. Where they are unhappy about something that’s more than a poor process. Issues like these need to be escalated to your HR department. But it’s important you keep your team member updated on progress - “I’ve spoken to HR, they’re currently arranging a catch up with you.”

Get in tune

Now your team member has aired any issues and felt listened to, you now have an opportunity to bring them up to speed with what’s happening. This way you’re both on the same page. If changes happen later on then they’re less of a surprise. Surprises can cause frustration. We don’t like change. We like to feel comfortable. So putting something on the horizon is a good thing.

Performance Review

At Ph.Creative we hold quarterly (every 3 months) appraisal reviews. As part of these we set Objectives together. Every month during the one to ones it’s worth checking in on progress to see if any have been achieved and if they need any support to do so. It avoids them panicking a few days before their appraisal because they’ve ‘totally forget’ about them.

Treat these regular get togethers like mini appraisals. If they’ve done something good then give them the recognition, a pat on the back. If they’ve done the opposition then bring it up. Don’t boil things up yourself. If something’s bugging you about their performance then put it on the table.

For example “you’ve been late three times this week.”

Rather than say “stop being late”, explain the behaviour you’ve observed and what impact it’s having on you, the rest of the team and the business. Then discuss next steps to improve or stop these behaviours that aren’t part of our culture.

Don’t wait for your one to one

5 days can be a long time depending how your days go. The worse thing you can do is let something build up to the point you’re about to burst. I always say to the team “my door is always open, give me a nudge if you need me”.

Before you finish, give them a heads up of what you’re up to or working on. They maybe able to give you support. It’s a two way relationship!

What other benefits are there?

  • Get closer to your team and form a better relationship with individuals. Don’t be a stranger.
  • happiness equalises lower staff turnover. Unhappy team members are more likely to hand in their notice.
  • they understand the goals of the business better.
  • they feel wanted, listened to and recognised. Give them a voice.
  • it improves theirs and your communication skills.
  • it helps to get away from your desk if you’re stuck at it for 8 hours a day.
  • they’ll respect you more because you’re there for them. Helping them be more productive each day.