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Delivering a Negative Performance Review

March 5th, 2020

The beginning of the calendar year is performance review season for many companies. While many managers have the opportunity to give positive reviews to every team member, others find themselves faced with delivering a negative review to at least one worker.

Delivering negative performance reviews constructively can be difficult. Fortunately, it is also a skill that can be strengthened with practice. Here’s where to start:

1. Gather your documentation.

Negative performance reviews put even the most mild-mannered workers on the defensive. It’s not unusual to receive pushback on a negative review.

To clarify the issue and get ahead of potential arguments, make sure the negative review is backed up by concrete documentation. For instance, if the review focuses on a salesperson’s declining sales numbers, make sure you have a printout of the numbers with you at the review.

2. Focus on the issue, not the person.

For many people, work is an integral part of their identity. A negative review can make a staff member feel as if they are being personally attacked.

To reduce feelings of defensiveness, keep your words focused on the facts and the issue. Avoid straying into comments that can feel as if they’re aimed at the person.

For instance, to address tardiness, consider starting your conversation with “Your timesheets show you’ve been late four times in the past week,” rather than “You need to start showing up to work on time.”

3. Build a concrete action plan together.

Once you’ve explained the problem, ask the staff member to help you create a plan to solve it. Set specific, measurable goals within a reasonable time frame. Clarify which consequences the worker will face if they do not meet the goals you have set together.

For instance, in the case of tardiness, your team member might set a goal of being late to work no more than once in the next four weeks. By listening to the worker’s side of the story, you can determine together whether this is a realistic goal.

4. Take additional steps if needed.

Some negative performance reviews are a worker’s first, which gives them time to understand and fix the problem. Others represent a pattern of deficiencies that may indicate the worker would be better off in a different work environment.

If firing is a potential consequence, double-check your documentation, as well as your company’s policies for termination. Talk to an attorney if necessary to address any specific legal questions you may have. Also, speak to your recruiter for help finding a candidate who can do the job well.

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, we connect our clients in the Twin Cities area to some of the best talent available in Minnesota. To learn more about our services and the industries we serve, contact us today.

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