When you have employees working hard for you day in and day out, investing their time and energy into your projects and your company, as a manager it is important to give them the same courtesy and effort in conducting a powerful and productive performance review.  For an employee that is struggling, performance reviews are extremely important for steering a wayward employee back on the right track.  You are able to outline the things that they could do to step up or refocus their game, which will benefit both you and the company.  And even if they do not get on the right course in the future, at least if it comes down to severing ties with the employee, you will know that you had done everything you could as a manager to coach and mentor the employee according to your specific expectations, and you can be certain you are not losing a potentially great employee due to a lack of effective communication or clear-cut expectations.

Equally as important are performance reviews for your excellent employees.  They have been laying it all on the line for you and your company, so it is important to give them praise where praise is due. If you don’t tell them what they are doing right, then perhaps the lack of feedback will cause them to go astray.  Reviews are important for keeping these employees on track, and keeping them satisfied with their position at your company.   Give them tips on the next steps for their professional growth.  Work with them on their career path.  Doing these things in a productive review is something expected- and earned- by your valuable employees.

When attempting to assess an employee in a productive manner, there are many do’s and don’ts.  Meryl Runion has outlined several in her article below.  Remember, an informative and productive review will render an even more productive employee and a stronger team for your company!

Here are 10 dos and don’ts to help you create a positive and productive experience.
1. Avoid surprises
DON’T: Wait until the review to address issues, or surprise the employee at the review with unexpected negative feedback.
WHY NOT?: This disallows the opportunity for the employee to correct the problem and work toward a positive review.
DO: Provide immediate feedback when issues arise and work with the employee to address issues. Meet with the employee throughout the review period.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “As we discussed before…”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “I’ve been meaning to tell you… ”
2. Prepare
DON’T: Wait until just before the assessment to write an employee review.
WHY NOT?: It’s easy to forget performance. Your review needs to reflect the entire performance period, and this takes advanced preparation.
DO: Document exemplary and poor performance throughout the year to keep track and be automatically prepared when review time comes using process improvement forms and documentation such as the “Instant Performance Documentation Form.”
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “I’ve reviewed my records from the past year and found…”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “I didn’t have time to…”
3. Stay professional
DON’T: Chat about personal topics in the review.
WHY NOT?: Even a friendly inquiry into childcare issues or about parents who are ill could be interpreted by the employee to be evidence of discrimination.
DO: Stick with issues related to the employee’s performance and conduct in the workplace.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “‘We’re here today to review the successes and lessons from last year and to make plans for next year.”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “How are the kids?”
4. Observe balance
DON’T: Provide exclusively negative feedback, even where there are serious performance concerns.
WHY NOT?: It can be demoralizing and demotivating and a review that only contains negatives makes a supervisor appear unfair, which can work against your company should you need to defend a claim.
DO: Acknowledge the employee’s contributions and positive efforts.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “There was some improvement in the area of…
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “I can’t find anything to acknowledge you for.”
5. Be respectful
DON’T: Raise your voice, make personal attacks, use sarcasm or belittle.
WHY NOT?: An employee who feels respected is more receptive when told of performance problems. Employment court cases are often about hurt feelings.
DO: Speak with respect, even if you don’t think they deserve it.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I understand you’ve given this your best effort, and you need to know that it’s still not up to standard.”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “If this is what you do when you try, I’d hate to see what would happen if you didn’t.”
6. Be accurate
DON’T: Make promises you cannot deliver on.
WHY NOT?: Promises can be regarded as a verbal contract.
DO: Speak accurately. Make sure “possibilities” are presented as such.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “The goals and improvements we set will increase your chances to be in a position to…”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “This time next year, you’ll be in a position to… this time next year.”
7. Document appropriately
DON’T: Document conclusions.
WHY NOT?: Only facts are relevant in court.
DO: Document facts. Document concrete examples of performance that lead you to your conclusions, omitting your conclusion.
PowerPhrase / What to say: ” ‘Called me a ‘micromanaging witch.’ ”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “Doesn’t like working for a woman.”
Use the “dos” and avoid the “don’ts”
When the time comes for you to write an employee review, remember these 6 dos and don’ts. It will set the stage for the coming year.

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