Ask Rhee Gold | Build trust and mutual respect with employee evaluations

Advice for Dance Teachers

Q: Dear Rhee,

I am not the best when it comes to talking to employees about things like parent complaints and issues. Confrontation gives me anxiety, and even in my personal life I avoid some issues, which obviously makes situations worse.

This is something I have been working on. I’m teaching less than I used to, which helps because I’m less stressed. I haven’t had any big issues to confront—until this week, when I ran into two issues with two different teachers.

How do you handle staff issues in general? Sit-down meeting or email? Do you have a policy for writing up your teachers? As my studio grows, I’m wondering if I need to track this officially on paper. Do you have any advice that would make me less nervous going into these talks?

When you get an email complaint about an instructor, do you read the email to the instructor? I assume I should remove any names or particulars. This is only the second time in five years I’ve gotten an email like this. Whether 100 percent accurate or not, I know there is probably some truth to it. I think reading the email to my instructor will be the best way for her to understand a different perspective. I want her to learn from this and take it as constructive criticism.

How often should I observe classes? Should I then provide written and/or verbal feedback to the  teachers —Debra

A: Dear Debra,

Email or texts can be misconstrued. I believe that faculty/staff issues should be discussed face to face and in a way that is non-judgmental toward the employee. The teacher should not feel she is being attacked, but instead, be assured that she is part of a supportive team.

With that said, if the employee has created the negative situation, it is your responsibility to make things right for your clientele. Be open, honest, and ready to help solve the problem. Each faculty member should have an employee file that includes the employee’s contract, copies of all correspondence, copies of faculty reviews, and any notes from your face-to-face meetings.

For most business owners, employee situations like the one you describe can be nerve-wracking, but we must all deal with them. Be strong and confident. Your objective is to do what is right for the future of your business and your students.

You can leave out the name of the complaining party, but I certainly would not hide the details of the complaint. You must discuss specifics if you are to achieve a solution. Together, come up with a plan to rectify the issue or to avoid similar issues in the future.

Make time to observe and evaluate your teachers in action. Through that process, both parties can be confident they are on the same page in creating a successful classroom. Create an evaluation form that covers all the bases with a grading system of 1 through 5. Assess whether your teachers are prepared for class with proper music, curriculum, choreography, and class structure. Note their communication and interaction with students, their enthusiasm and energy, and all other aspects that are important to you. Be sure to include space to note three or four comments describing the positives that you observed, as well as space for areas of improvement.

Schedule a face-to-face meeting to go over the evaluation. Be sure to start with positive comments that will set a comfortable tone. Offer the employee a copy of the evaluation and discuss each point. If there are negatives, try to present them in the form of a question. “How do you feel about your recital choreography?” works better than “I don’t like your recital choreography.” Mutually come up with goals for the employee, and end the meeting on a positive note.

Ask the employee to sign your evaluation form and keep it in the employee’s file. By comparing current and past evaluations, you can track the employee’s progress or lack of effort. You also have a written record if you need to terminate employment.

Don’t be afraid. Most evaluations are positive and the one-on-one time will help to build trust and mutual respect for both of you. Good luck. —Rhee