Different responses to appraisal

However well prepared you are for an appraisal, you will find that the attitude of the appraisee will make a big difference as to how the meeting proceeds. Individuals have different types of response to feeling 'judged'. Below are some examples of behaviour and suggestions that have proved effective for appraisers in the past.

The silent appraisee

This person is reluctant to engage with the conversation and is unresponsive to your efforts. They may be nervous, apprehensive or suspicious about the purpose of the meeting or may have wider issues of self confidence. During the meeting you could:

  • stress that appraisal is intended to assist their development
  • make sure you ask open questions (what, why, when, how where)
  • help them to identify achievements
  • give them time to answer, don't hurry them and don't interrupt
  • tolerate silence.

The evasive appraisee

This person appears to not want to talk about their performance or development and steers the conversation onto other matters at each opportunity. There may be reasons why they do not wish to talk about their role or they simply may be uncomfortable talking about themselves. Try to:

  • be clear about the purpose of appraisal at the outset and get their buy-in to this
  • be prepared to be persistent if there is an issue you feel needs to be discussed
  • put emphasis on working towards the future
  • aim to reach agreement on very specific targets
  • be aware that they may have other genuine and perhaps sensitive  areas of concern which they would like to raise, so allow plenty of time for the meeting .

The defensive appraisee

This person appears over-sensitive to any perceived criticism of their work. Rather than being willing to discuss challenges or difficulties that have occurred in the past they react with denial or disengagement:

  • find things that went (possibly relatively) well and use this as a base from which to move onto things then went less well
  • focus on the task or situation rather than the person and encourage them to analyse it objectively themselves
  • keep to the facts and don't apportion blame; certainly don't be drawn into criticising others
  • be positive and supportive but, if there are issues to discuss, make sure you discuss them
  • put plenty of emphasis on working towards the future.

Ultimately your aim is to have a conversation that is open, honest and, consequently, productive. If you make judgements about a researcher's performance make sure that your comments are based on evidence and are discussed. Some people will find engaging in such conversations easier than others but, with encouragement, even the most reluctant appraisee can be engaged.


Think about how some of your researchers might behave during an appraisal conversation.

What can you do to help these different people engage positively with the process?

You may also be interested in pages on benefits of appraisal and the appraisal process.