How to Integrate Wellbeing into Line Management and Appraisal.

18th March 2024
 minute read

Table of contents


Nowadays, maintaining employee wellbeing is crucial to effective line management and appraisal. Not only does it safeguard people’s mental and emotional health, it also promotes productivity and high performance. When line managers centre wellbeing in both their day-to-day role and employee appraisals, it creates a healthier and more motivating work environment.

Why wellbeing is important in line management and appraisal

Incorporating employee wellbeing into line management and appraisal helps to create a supportive workplace culture that fosters employee engagement, productivity and retention. 

This guide explores how to integrate wellbeing into line management and appraisal, outlines why employees can find the appraisal process stressful, and provides actionable steps that HR professionals can take to make mental health a priority.

How to integrate wellbeing into line management

Line managers play a crucial role in creating a positive work environment. Integrating wellbeing into line management involves taking a proactive approach that prioritises employee support and development. Here are some strategies for integrating wellbeing into line management:

  • Offer regular check-ins: schedule regular one-on-one meetings with team members to discuss their experience at work. Make sure that employees feel it’s safe to express concerns around issues like workload, deadlines, team dynamics and role responsibilities, without fear of repercussions. Take an interest in the whole person and how they're doing, rather than just focusing on their work self.
  • Give feedback regularly: don't wait to raise issues in appraisals — raise them early and informally first. This gives the individual an opportunity to address any ongoing challenges before they potentially escalate. It also prevents them from feeling surprised, embarrassed or defensive when issues are raised later in formal appraisals.
  • Practise giving balanced feedback: make sure that any feedback optimises wellbeing. For instance, focus on specific and actionable growth areas where the employee has clear milestones to aim for. Also make sure to focus on behaviour and performance rather than character. Ensure that you also let people know about the areas where they’re doing well and highlight any positive personal qualities that they have. If giving feedback is anxiety-inducing for you, aim to access support around this (Lumo’s 7 tips for having difficult conversations at work is a useful guide).
  • Invite feedback: make sure that feedback is a two-way conversation. Give the employee a chance to discuss any adjustments at work that could improve their wellbeing or performance. Aim to practise active listening skills during these conversations (this Harvard Business Review article on active listening offers more information).
  • Be curious when challenges come up: rather than jumping to criticism if there's a change in performance, try to uncover any deeper issues. Performance changes could be a sign that something is going on, particularly if it's out of character for the person.
  • Practise self-awareness: be mindful of any pressures on you and how they might be affecting you at work. Monitor how you're coping with stress, so that doesn't get pushed onto others. This could show up as micromanaging people, feeling overwhelmed, feeling out of control, or getting triggered when employees express 'negative' emotions.
  • Demonstrate action: when concerns are raised, circle back to the employee with an update. Not feeling heard has a massive impact on wellbeing and can also cause demoralisation.
  • Create psychological safety around mistakes: normalise any errors or oversights by employees. Keep consequences proportionate and frame it as a learning opportunity for all concerned. Support people in fixing any issues. 
  • Promote a work-life balance: encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations around workload and deadlines. Encourage people to take regular breaks and, where possible, offer options for hybrid or homeworking. Create a culture that supports employees leaving work on time, rather than feeling pressured to work late regularly. Remove any spoken or unspoken pressure on employees to check or respond to emails out of hours.
  • Offer professional development: support people’s professional growth by providing opportunities for training, mentorship and career advancement. This is particularly crucial when an employee is new, or has been asked to take on new responsibilities, or when the nature of their role has changed. 
  • Recognise achievements: celebrate milestones to boost employee morale and motivation. Where possible, show appreciation by creating employee reward schemes to mark achievement and progress.
  • Lead by example: managers can demonstrate a commitment to employee wellbeing by prioritising their own self-care and modelling healthy work habits. This could include leaving work on time, taking regular breaks and avoiding sending or responding to out-of-hours emails. 

Why employees can find the appraisal process stressful

The appraisal process can create feelings of anxiety and uncertainty among employees. Fear of negative feedback, concerns about job security and pressure to meet targets can all contribute to heightened stress levels. 

Additionally, employees may feel that it’s unfair if their performance is evaluated based solely on quantitative achievements such as sales figures. They may feel that this ignores their other skills, personal qualities and contributions. 

People can also worry that if they are honest during their appraisal process — for instance, by expressing their feeling that deadlines or targets are unrealistic — then this could have negative repercussions for them. 

For this reason, people can enter into appraisal sessions feeling nervous, defensive and overwhelmed. 

Mental health issues that can make appraisals more challenging

The appraisal process can be additionally difficult for employees dealing with mental or emotional wellbeing issues. Individuals with stress, anxiety or low self-esteem might find that appraisals can worsen these issues. Other people can experience appraisals as a form of criticism or a personal attack, which can bring up feelings of anger, shame and defensiveness.

Additionally, individuals with a history of traumatic experiences might particularly struggle with appraisals. This is because dealing with feedback could make them feel unsafe, exposed or triggered. For instance, if an individual grew up in a family where they were routinely criticised or made to feel ‘not good enough’ then appraisals can bring up those old painful feelings in them.

All of these issues can make it more difficult for people to process feedback, feel safe within the appraisal process, and express themselves clearly and openly.

How to integrate wellbeing into appraisal

Integrating wellbeing into the appraisal process involves adopting a holistic approach that blends honest performance feedback with the safeguarding of employee wellbeing. 

Also, to make the process feel fairer and more comprehensive, appraisals shouldn’t focus solely on quantitative metrics. They should also assess factors such as the employee’s interpersonal skills, attitude, motivation, work ethic and overall job engagement. 

Here are some ways to integrate wellbeing into the appraisal process itself:

1. Explain the process: start by outlining each step of the appraisal process to the employee at the beginning. Explain what you will be covering during the session and reassure them that they will be given an opportunity to provide their own feedback or ask questions.

2. Establish safety: make it clear that the appraisal process works better when employees express themselves honestly. Invite them to discuss any worries or frustrations with you and reassure them of confidentiality. 

3. Begin with praise: aim to open up the appraisal process by highlighting the employee’s achievements, hard work and positive personal qualities. This creates an encouraging tone at the beginning, helping the person to feel safe, seen and recognised.

4. Frame any issues positively: ideally, any issues raised in appraisals shouldn’t come as a surprise to employees, as they should have already been raised early and informally. When highlighting areas of performance that need to be addressed, aim to frame these as opportunities for growth. Where possible and appropriate, focus on the journey that the employee can take towards improvement, rather than on past mistakes or current weaknesses. 

5. Practise active listening: create space for employees to express any concerns over their appraisal or their role at work. Repeat back any points that employees have made or any questions they have asked, as this demonstrates that you are listening closely and also ensures that you have understood. Show empathy and compassion, especially if the person is experiencing difficult feelings over their appraisal. Encourage them to express their emotions openly.

6. Encourage self-reflection: give the individual an opportunity to reflect on any challenges that you have highlighted and on what might be causing them. Also encourage them to identify areas where they may be experiencing stress or burnout, then discuss ways that you can help them to look after their wellbeing. 

7. Invite feedback: appraisals should be a two-way process, so create space for employees to express concerns and highlight any issues at work. Make sure to ask open-ended questions such as ‘What changes could we put in place to make your job easier?’ rather than closed questions such as ‘Are you happy at your job?’ Closed questions might not invite employees to be open or honest, as they may feel that they have to give rote positive answers. Also ensure that employees are encouraged to give feedback on their wellbeing.  

8. Set SMART goals: work with employees to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals for their career growth and performance. This provides both of you with a clear roadmap that you can refer to in the lead up to future appraisals. It also gives employees a clear and concrete sense of what’s expected from them.

9. Offer ongoing support: where appropriate, offer employees opportunities for training, development and mentorship — especially around the growth opportunities that you have highlighted. Also make them aware of any wellbeing support available at work, for example, mental health resources or therapy sessions via EAPs.

10. End with the positives: remember to close by reiterating the employee’s achievements and skills. Highlight any positive personal qualities that they bring to the role and show gratitude by thanking them for their work. 

11. Offer follow ups: sometimes, people can find it hard to express themselves in the moment, especially if they are feeling nervous, upset or overwhelmed. Encourage employees to take time to reflect on the discussion and check in with you at a future date with any further questions, feedback or concerns. 

Implementing change in line management and appraisal: Steps for HR

  • Gather feedback from employees: use a range of information gathering methods (anonymous surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews) to build a picture of employees’ experiences of line management and appraisal.
  • Provide training on appraisals: train managers and HR professionals on how to conduct appraisals that prioritise employee wellbeing. Provide guidance on giving constructive feedback, recognising achievements and addressing areas for improvement in a supportive and empathetic manner. Develop manager’s skills in active listening, compassionate communication and empathetic leadership.
  • Prioritise wellbeing: make it a policy for discussions on employee wellbeing and mental health to be included in the appraisal process.  
  • Monitor and evaluate progress: track the impact of changes to line management and appraisal processes on employee wellbeing. Collect feedback from employees through regular surveys, focus groups and one-to-one interviews to identify any ongoing areas for improvement.

Integrating wellbeing into line management and appraisal is essential for creating a healthy working environment where employees can excel. To prioritise wellbeing, make sure that appraisal is always a two-way process where people can offer feedback, express concerns and highlight any professional or mental health support needs.

By making mental and emotional wellbeing central to the appraisal process, organisations can improve job satisfaction, engagement and retention. They can also create a safer and more open workplace culture where everyone feels seen and supported.

How to Integrate Wellbeing into Line Management and Appraisal.
You may also like
No items found.

Boost your teams’ mental wellbeing today

Ready to find out more? Let’s talk