Employee performance reviews can be stressful for both managers and employees. Considering that one in four employees dreads this time more than any other of their working lives, it’s clear that there’s a lot of anxiety around the topic.
While there are guidelines about how to conduct stress-free performance reviews, some managers get overwhelmed when it comes down to putting it all together and actually writing the review.
So here are the top three tips to keep in mind when you sit down to write.
1. The review is a legal document.
Depending on the company culture, the language in a review may tend to drift anywhere between a formal to a more relaxed style. Regardless, it’s important to remember that a performance review is a legal document – meaning, if you head to court for any reason, the review could essentially become available for public consumption.
And what you write on the Review Form says a lot about the thought you put into it, as well as your own level of professionalism. It is as much a reflection of you as it is of your employees.
2. Be clear and specific in your writing.
Often, something may sound perfectly clear and reasonable in our heads, but it becomes a jumbled mess – or worse, loses tact – when put down on paper. In order to avoid this, always proofread and edit each review for clarity and flow.
Put yourself in the shoes of the employee and see how it reads from their perspective. And then ask yourself the following questions:
- Do my comments match my ratings?
- Have I provided enough detail to support both my positive and constructive comments?
Supporting documentation is key to avoiding feelings of personal attack. We’re not critiquing the actual person, instead we’re evaluating the work performance. So if the review would appear unfair from an outsider’s perspective, you need to rethink what you’ve written and add more detail to support the comments.
I touched on this one above, but it’s imperative that you avoid appraising the individual, and instead, focus on the behavior of the individual.
For example, saying that the employee “has a bad attitude” or “isn’t a team player” won’t effect a positive change in performance. In fact, it’s likely to make the employee/employer relationship much more tense as it will be viewed as a personal attack.
Furthermore, those kinds of statements – on their own – don’t offer the employee any guidance on how to improve or shift the behavior to be more in line with company expectations.
Feedback must absolutely be tied to performance measures, not an individual’s personality. To drill down to more productive feedback, ask yourself the following:
- What actions took place that made me feel that the employee has a bad attitude?
- What specific things do they need to improve upon to be a team player?
As a manager, the goal of the performance review is to provide a very clear interpretation of the employee’s current behavior and abilities, as well as offer suggestions as to what they can do to either improve or continue on a similar path.
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