When employees are approached by their managers to discuss workplace performance, the emotions they tend to feel first are fear, anxiety, stress and even anger. This is especially true when the discussion involves any sort of metrics.

“Employees dread the idea of their managers reducing them to numbers — numbers that might be accurate and important but don’t accurately reflect all they bring to their jobs,” explains Mike McDonald with Gallup. “And no matter the niceties of how it’s all delivered, people get defensive and deflated.”

Other words used to describe measurement include distrust, power and control — definitely not positive terms.

So, managers tend to avoid it. Yet, new Gallup research shows employees actually want measurement.

Measurement can be a positive pillar for developing employees, holding them accountable and giving good, specific recognition — three performance objectives employees say they need from their managers and organizations they work for, according to Gallup’s “Re-Engineering Performance Management” report.

Additionally, employees who strongly agree that their managers hold them accountable for their performance are two and a half times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, Gallup research says, adding that employees who feel adequately recognized are half as likely as those who don’t to say they’ll quit in the next year.

The point: measurement used in the right way is motivating — and can boost retention, an industry-wide issue.

Tony Batallan, director of operations for Property Works, knows this. He and his brother Jason, company president, came up with an employee recognition system that has improved retention.

The measurements they use involve raises based on time with the company — first, a raise after 90 days and then the addition of earning paid holidays and two sick days after six months. Annual reviews come with raises for employees who continue to perform well. And those who get their CDLs, earn certifications or take English-speaking classes (for Spanish-speaking employees) also can earn more money for their efforts, in addition to getting reimbursed for class costs.

When creating the right employee metrics to measure performance and retain quality workers, remember to set metrics that employees know they can influence to make them feel it’s fair, McDonald advises.

“Measurement used in the right way can reduce your employees’ negative emotions,” he says. “More importantly, it can help you create a whole team of stars — people who are motivated to achieve great things, not just prodded to improve a little.”