I have successfully made it through my first batch of performance reviews. I completed the sixth of six yesterday. Most were positively directed with growth opportunties and goals. A couple needed re-enfocrcement (i.e. I had to think really hard about the core statement).

Thanks Michael and Mark for your help!

The toughest part about doing this was when I started probing to find out some possible reasons behind some performance issues. The employee directly stated a major personal problem (which I cannot state for HIPAA reasons). It explained a lot, but it was tough to think on my feet with a bomb like that dropped on me. Fortunately we have an employee assistance program. I quickly and descretely talked to my friendly HR person and she gave me some info that I could pass on. Geez I hope this works out for the better.

I know I didn't offer a lot of info, but has anyone else had to deal with anything similar?

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Glad the casts helped. Having followed that process, it's highly likely you have just completed the 6 best performance reviews (notwithstanding the challenges) delivered within 100 miles of you in 2006.

And, to answer your question, but of course! It does happen, and you did well. Bringing employee assistance into the picture is always a good idea. I would also encourage you to address the problem directly and compassionately yourself. Even if private bodily functions are involved, I am quite willing to delicately inquire about the situation and its impacts on work.

There is more to say here, but it's an upcoming cast... so I'll just say, believe it or not, the employee makes it your job when they suggest that it is impacting their performance at work.

Now for a counter argument: This happens quite a bit more frequently than you might imagine because people get scared and make stuff up. As much as I hate to allow inferences that aren't flattering, the fact is I have way too much evidence that a well delivered review, without surprises, delving into positives and challenges, are met more often with surprises in return.

My recommended approach to these situations is the same in both situations: don't shy away, yet take a delicate path.

It works.