5 Things You Should Never Tell Your Employees During a Performance Review



All too often the performance review can become a tense affair, with the the reluctant employee and manager dancing round the 'shit' sandwich .... sorry the feedback sandwich, see a previous blog on the exact subject This Is Why The Feedback Sandwich Is A S**t Sandwich.


Often in my work I hear from managers who are struggling with how to structure their performance reviews and sometimes are concerned with saying the wrong thing. I cover below 5 phrases you should avoid during a performance review.


'None of your coworkers seem to struggle with this--what's your problem?'

Avoid comparisons. Comparisons are odious, no two employees are the same. Just because others in the team find something straightforward doesn't mean everyone will. Rather then diminishing the individual, why not put your coaching cap on and sit down and ascertain what the individual doesn't understand or his having trouble with a coach them through it.


'Everything is perfect.'

Don't pretend everything is perfect. There is always room to be even better. So praise where praise is due. Then look to inspire the individual to even greater achievement and stretch them. The problem with 'everything is perfect' is that you'll probably then say 'but' .... and undo all of the good will.


'You always/never do X.' Or, 'Everyone thinks Y.'

Don't generalize. I doubt it is 'always' or 'never'. This is sloppy thinking and shows that you haven't done your homework. Be specific about what the individual has or hasn't done, with examples, rather than this generalized response. People can address specific feedback, whereas generalizations are unhelpful.


I hope you're finding this blog useful. As you continue your leadership journey, don't forget that here at Bluegem Learning we are always here to assist you.




'What's wrong with you?! You're the worst member on my staff.'

Don't humiliate. If you have identified specific areas that the individual could improve in, then explain these to them. My book 'I Need To F***ing Talk To You - The Art Of Navigating Difficult Workplace Conversations' gives a template for how to structure this conversation. However, losing your temper and humiliating your employee won't work and creates a toxic work environment that others won't want to work in.

'I'm a little worried about you handling the XYZ account.'

Don't imply doubt. Be clear and specific in your feedback, there either is an issue or there isn't. Don't imply that there is a half problem. This leaves the employee unsure as to what the issue is and how they can improve. Better to be specific with a sound example/s that someone can work on with your support.


Remember that people like a mix both positive and constructive feedback in their performance reviews. According to a 2014 Harvard Business Review study, 57% of employees like to receive negative feedback, while only 43% like hearing positive feedback only.


For further guidance on conducting great performance reviews check out this resource from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.


For more great insight into all things leadership & culture related, check out our podcast here, new episodes bi-weekly ...


If you enjoyed this blog then why not check out my new book, co-written with Ken Cameron.


You can now order copies of our book here.

"Sometimes conversations suck, but you need to have them, and this book lays out how. Russell and Ken have put together and road-tested simple, up-front, and thoughtful approaches to awkward and difficult workplace conversations."

Andrew Phung, CBC's Kim's Convenience


Well that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and I'll be back next week with more, until then ... be a leader not just a boss!

#leadership #management #HR #difficultworkplaceconversations #organizationalculture #highperformance #teamwork

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