How to Deliver a Negative Performance Review

Whether you’re a long time manager, or just learning how to deal with direct reports, one thing is true: you’ll eventually have to give an employee a negative performance review.  

While performance reviews are a great way to ensure team is firing on all cylinders, the fact is, no ones perfect. And giving an otherwise hardworking person news that theyre underperforming can be tricky. Here are tried and true performance reviewing skills that can make the situation easier – for you and your employee.  

1. Have the Employee Complete a Self-Assessment  

As a manager or HR professional, you should ask employees to complete an honest self-assessment about a week or two before their review. This is the easiest way to understand how they perceive their own work, and if that perception aligns with your own. Look for overlaps as a way to start the conversation, particularly when it comes to finding areas of improvement.  

2. Keep an Open Mind 

You may be surprised to learn that how you perceived a situation or issue is different from how it is in reality. Are there challenges to the role that you were unaware of? Are interpersonal issues with other staff members hampering performance? If this is the case, be ready to amend your review. 

3. Don’t Make it Personal 

Getting the best possible performance out of your employee (and, helping them get the most out of their career) must be your main objective. If giving a bad review helps, then it’s what you have to do. Take personal emotions out of it and say what needs to be said in a professional and non-aggressive manner. Theres a way to be constructive and critical without being mean or hostile. 

4. Call Out Their Strengths 

It’s more effective to focus on developing strengths versus focusing on weaknesses – and this rule of thumb should be applied to blah performance reviews. Coaching an employee to identify and work on their strengths can help them perform at a higher level – while giving them more confidence. 

5. Use Concrete Examples 

For a performance review to be credible, gathering data is crucial to delivering feedback. Each statement about negative performance issues should be supported by at least two specific examplesIf the employee dropped the ball on a one-off occasion, bring it up but don’t dwell on it. However, if the issue is re-occurring, or has the potential to grow into a bigger problem, then the review is a great place to summarize the issue and collaborate on a plan to move forward with a resolution. 

6. Provide Action Items  

A review of any sort is only as good as the follow-up. In the case of a negative review, it’s the responsibility of the manager or HR department to work with the employee to come up with an action plan of specific steps to take in order to correct their shortcomings. These should include short- and long-term measurable goals.  

7. Follow Up

When you and the employee have developed an action plan, be sure to follow up at a pre-agreed upon time to ensure theyre on track to addressing and resolving whatever issues caused the negative review. Be sure to use the original review to check off items they needed to work on.  

Lanmark Staffing provides over 40 years of combined human resources, recruiting, temporary placement, sales and management, and temp-to-hire services. Visit our website and learn how our team of local, experienced professionals can help you find the right employee for the job. 



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