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How to Deliver a Negative Performance Review

September 10th, 2020

No manager likes to tell people how they’re doing badly. Giving a negative performance review can feel like navigating a field of landmines. You need your staff member to understand what’s gone wrong and how to fix it, but you also need to avoid triggering such overwhelming negative emotions that they can’t hear what they need to do better. 

Delivering critical feedback is a skill. And while it’s not a skill that is often taught in business colleges, it is a skill any manager can learn at any point in their career. Here’s how to improve your ability to deliver less-than-glowing performance reviews. 

1. Focus on issues and specifics. 

Feedback – both positive and negative – that focuses on issues and specifics allows your employee to disengage their personal feelings from feedback and focus on the facts.  

For instance, instead of saying “You didn’t even bother to proofread the last two reports you sent me,” frame the same issue in terms of the facts: “The last two reports you sent me each contained over a dozen typos. That’s much higher than your usual rate.”  

2. Team up with the employee. 

Once the issue is on the table, offer to work as a team with the employee to solve the problem. Often, this offer can be made as simple as asking the employee what they think should change and how. 

For example, after noting that the employee’s last two reports each contained over a dozen typos, you might ask: “What do you think we can do to ensure your reports are error-free?” 

3. Ask questions and focus on progress.  

Often, asking questions can take the “sting” out of negative feedback. Questions give the employee the chance to participate in the conversation, reflect on their own performance, and seek ways to approach the problem differently. 

When framing questions, focus on the lack of progress and how to help the employee get moving on the issue again. For instance, you might say something like “Your last two reports had over a dozen typos each, but your reports are usually error-free. What are some things we can focus on to help you get back on track?” 

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, our recruiters help our clients in St. Paul and surrounding areas find the staff members they need to build a strong company culture and reach their business goals. To learn more, contact us today.  

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