Give a Performance Review of an Employee

Performance reviews are among the most valuable resources in a manager’s toolbox, yet many managers don’t know how to give a performance review of an employee. Here are 10 do's and don'ts to help you create a positive and productive experience.


  1. Use phrases for performance reviews. What to say: "Delivers feedback in a constructive manner. She was able to help tech support understand our needs for change." What not to say: "Delivers feedback in a constructive manner."
  2. Avoid surprises. Provide immediate feedback when issues arise and work with the employee to address issues. Meet with the employee throughout the review period. What to say: "As we discussed before." What not to say: "I’ve been meaning to tell you."
  3. Prepare. 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.” What to say: "I’ve reviewed my records from the past year and found" What not to say: "I didn’t have time to."
  4. Do not "pass the buck". If employee performance information was obtained from a third-party, verify its accuracy before taking action. Also, careful consideration should be given to revealing the source as it may lead to more conflict in the workplace, loss of employee's trust, or animosity among co-workers. What to say: "I have noticed that <issue> has happened from time to time so let's look at how we work on that together." What not to say: "Christina and Val told me that you are bossy and unprofessional. I haven't noticed, but they said you are."
  5. Keep it professional. Stick with issues related to the employee’s performance and conduct in the workplace. What to say: "We’re here today to review the successes and lessons from last year and to make plans for next year." What not to say: "How are the kids?"
  6. Balance positive and negative. Acknowledge the employee’s contributions and positive efforts. What to say: "There was some improvement in the area of. What not to say: "I can’t find anything to acknowledge you for."
  7. Show respect. Don’t raise your voice, make personal attacks, use sarcasm or belittle. Speak with respect. 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." 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."
  8. Be committed to accuracy. Don’t make promises you cannot deliver on. Speak accurately. Make sure “possibilities” are presented as such. What to say: "The goals and improvements we set will increase your chances to be in a position to." What not to say: "This time next year, you’ll be in a position to."
  9. Review your best and your worst. Don’t skip the review for employees who are doing a good job. Discuss specific strengths and set goals. Consider using a “Bonus Superlative Phrase.” What to say: "I’m looking forward to your review because it’s been a great year." What not to say: "You’re past needing a review. I don’t have time."
  10. Don’t do all the talking. Acknowledge their explanations, even if you do not intend to change your conclusions. What to say: "I invite your input in the review. I want to hear how you see it." What not to say: "You’re just making excuses."
  11. Document accurately. Don’t document conclusions. Only facts are relevant in court. Document concrete examples of performance that lead you to your conclusions, without documenting the conclusion. What to say: "Called me a 'micromanaging witch.' " What not to say: "Doesn’t like working for a woman."
  12. Be a coach. Don't just tell the employees what they've done wrong. Give some tips that could help improve their workplace. Some employees have unintentionally developed poor work habits. What to say: "I notice that you spend much of your time socializing instead of work. Perhaps you should schedule time outside of work to socialize with employees and take the bowl of candy off your desk" What not to say: " You're don't care about work you just want to talk all day."



  • Be as specific as possible when delivering criticism. Don't say "You have a bad attitude." Instead, say "You displayed a bad attitude about picking up the slack while Jane was on medical leave."
  • Don't let personal dislike of the employee affect your review of his/her job performance.
  • Try to schedule performance reviews during the last hour of the working day. An employee who receives a bad review will naturally be upset, and may cause a disruption by complaining to all who will listen. If it's time to go home, he/she can seek solace elsewhere.
  • Always be fully prepared for an employee's Performance Review.
  • Look the employee in the eye to show sincerity but, don't go for a "stare down" which could be understood by the employee to be a challenge. Especially if that person's review is less than wonderful.


  • A Performance Review can be used in court. Be sure that your Reviews are as accurate as possible.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

You may like