SOLUTION: HRM 640 AUO Wk 3 Evaluating Personal Verbal and Nonverbal Skills Discussion

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In Week 3 – Assignment Part I we submitted a video recording to provide Spencer with feedback regarding his performance.

Considering the suggestions presented in Chapter 9 of the course text for minimizing defensiveness: (a) establishing and maintaining rapport, (b) being empathetic, (c) observing verbal and nonverbal cues, (d) minimizing threats, and (e) encouraging employee participation. For the second part of your assignment:

  • Evaluate your verbal and nonverbal response by identifying strengths and areas of opportunity.
  • Identify ways of minimizing defensiveness that were not presented satisfactorily.

The Conversation Activity and Written Analysis paper

  • formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center (Links to an external site.).
  • Must include a separate title page with the following:
    • Title of paper
    • Student’s name
    • Course name and number
    • Instructor’s name
    • Date submitted
  • Must use at least two scholarly and/or credible sources, in addition to the course text.

Here is the case study from Chapter 9.

Performance review discussions serve very important purposes. First, these discussions allow employees to improve their performance byidentifying performance problems and solutions for overcoming them. Second, they help build a good relationship between the supervisorand the employee because the supervisor shows that she cares about the employee’s ongoing growth and development and that she iswilling to invest resources, including time, in helping the employee improve.

Unfortunately, these purposes are not always realized because employees may be defensive, and many supervisors do not know how todeal with this attitude because they lack the necessary skills to conduct an effective performance review. How can we tell when an employeeis being defensive? Typically, there are two patterns of behavior that indicate defensiveness.49 First, employees may engage in a fightresponse. This includes blaming others for performance deficiencies, staring mutely at the supervisor, and other, more aggressive responsessuch as raising her voice or even pounding the desk. Second, employees may engage in a flight response. This includes looking away, turningaway, speaking softly, continually changing the subject, or quickly agreeing with what the supervisor is saying without basing the agreementon a thoughtful and thorough discussion about the issues at stake. When employees have a fight-or-flight response during the performancereview discussion, it is unlikely that the meeting will lead to improved performance in the future. What can supervisors do to preventdefensive responses? Consider the following suggestions:

  • Establish and maintain rapport. It is important that the meeting take place in a good climate. As noted earlier, this can be achieved bychoosing a meeting place that is private and by preventing interruptions from taking place. Also, the supervisor should emphasize two-way communication and put the employee at ease as quickly as possible. This can be done by sitting next to the employee as opposed toacross a desk, by saying his name, by thanking him for coming, and by beginning with small talk to reduce the initial tension. When goodrapport is established, both the supervisor and the employee are at ease, relaxed, and comfortable. They can have a friendlyconversation, and neither is afraid to speak freely. Both are open-minded and can express disagreement without offending one another.On the other hand, when there is no good rapport, both participants may be nervous and anxious. The conversation is cold and formaland both may fear to speak openly. The supervisor and employee are likely to interrupt each other frequently and challenge what theother is saying.
  • Be empathetic. It is important for the supervisor to put herself in the shoes of the employee. The supervisor needs to make an effort tounderstand why the employee has performed at a certain level during the review period. This includes not making attributions that anyemployee success was caused by outside forces (e.g., a good economy) or that employee failures were caused by inside forces (e.g.,employee incompetence).
  • Be open-minded. If the employee presents an alternative and different point of view, be open-minded, and discuss them directly andopenly. There is a possibility that the employee may provide information that is relevant and of which you are not aware. If this is thecase, ask for specific evidence.50
  • Observe verbal and nonverbal cues. The supervisor should be able to read verbal and nonverbal signals from the employee to determinewhether further clarification is necessary. The supervisor should be attentive to the employee’s emotions and react accordingly. Forexample, if the employee becomes defensive, the supervisor should stop talking and allow the employee to express her point of viewregarding the issue being discussed.
  • Minimize threats. The performance review meeting should be framed as a meeting that will benefit the employee, not punish him.
  • Encourage participation. The employee needs to have her own conversational space to speak and express her views. The supervisorshould not dominate the meeting; rather, she should listen without interrupting and avoid confrontation and argument.

In spite of these suggestions, defensiveness may be unavoidable in some situations. In such situations, supervisors need to recognize thatemployee defensiveness is inevitable, and they need to allow it. Rather than ignoring the defensive attitude, supervisors need to deal withthe situation head on. First, it is important to let the employee vent and to acknowledge the employee’s feelings. To do this, the supervisormay want to pause to accept the employee’s feelings. Then, the supervisor may want to ask the employee for additional information andclarification. If the situation is reaching a point where communication becomes impossible, the supervisor may want to suggest suspendingthe meeting until a later time.51 For example, the supervisor may say, “I understand that you are angry and that you believe you have beentreated unfairly. It’s important that I understand your perspective, but it’s difficult for me to absorb the information when you are so upset.This is an important matter. Let’s take a break, and get back together at 3:00 p.m. to continue our discussion.” To be sure, if the relationshipbetween the supervisor and the employee is not good, the performance review meeting is likely to expose these issues in a blatant andoften painful way.

Consider the following vignette. Jason is the manager at a large accounting firm, and Susan is one of the employees on his team. He choosesa conference room with privacy away from the other offices.


Hi, Susan. I wanted to meet with you today to discuss your performance appraisal for this quarter. At any time, please offeryour input and ask questions if you have any.




You did meet two important objectives that we set this quarter: sales and customer service. Thanks for your hard work.


No problem.


You did miss three of the other objectives.


What? I worked as hard as I could! It wasn’t my fault that the other people on the team did not carry their weight.


Susan, I am not here to blame anyone or to attack you. I want to generate some ideas on what we can do to ensure that youmeet your objectives and receive your bonus next quarter.


SITTING BACK WITH CROSSED ARMS: I told you I worked as hard as I could.


I know that you worked hard, Susan, and I know how hard it is to balance all of the objectives that we have in our department.When I first started, I had a hard time meeting all of the objectives as well.


It is hard and I try my best.


Susan, can you think of anything that we can work on together that would help you meet the last three objectives? Is there anyadditional training or resources that you need?


I am having a hard time prioritizing all of my daily tasks. There is a class offered online on prioritizing, but I feel I am too busyto take it.


That is good that you think the class will help. Take the class online, which will not disrupt your work schedule, and I will go toall of your meetings and follow up with clients as needed.


Thanks, Jason. I really appreciate your help.

How did Jason do in dealing with Susan’s defensiveness? Overall, he did a good job. Jason was empathetic, he picked up on Susan’snonverbal behavior, he had her offer her input, he held the meeting in a comfortable, private location, and he emphasized that the meetingwas to work on future performance and not to punish her. In the end, he was able to address Susan’s defensiveness and turned a meetingthat could have gone very poorly into a productive exchange of information and ideas.

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