How to give a negative performance review

EN Help & FAQ's Human Resources Management Workopolis B2B negative performance appraisal

Last week, we discussed tips on how to give your employees reviews that will actually ignite change. Sometimes however, it’s not quite that simple, especially when faced with having to give an underperforming employee a negative review. While potentially uncomfortable, a negative performance appraisal done correctly (proper constructive feedback is a given) can have a positive outcome, motivating the employee to resolve their issues and even advance their career. Here are 9 things to consider if you’re faced with giving a bad performance review or appraisal.

1. Have your employee complete self-assessment first
Ask them to complete an honest self-assessment about a week or two before you meet with them to give them your review. This way, you are aware of any alignments (or misalignments) perception and better prepare yourself for the meeting.

2. Be open to amendments
You may be surprised to learn that how you perceived a situation or issue is different from how it is in reality. If you find that this is the case in talking to your employee, then flex your manager muscles by showing some humility and adaptability and amend your review.

3. It’s just business – don’t make it personal
This goes without saying, but bringing up personal business, backhanded insults, passive-aggression, etc. should be avoided.

4. Focus on strengths
It’s been discussed again, and again: it’s more effective to focus on developing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses. This rule of thumb should also be applied to not-so-great performance reviews either. Coaching an employee to develop and hone in on their strengths can absolutely help them to perform at a higher level and give them confidence to do so.

5. Use concrete examples
Each statement about negative performance issues should be supported by at least two specific examples (three is better). If your employee dropped the ball on a one-off occasion, or due to a personal issue (divorce, death in the family), it is unfair to kick them down even more. However, if the issue is re-occurring, or has the potential to grow into a bigger problem, then the performance review is a great place to summarize the issue and collaborate on a plan to move forward with a resolution.

6. Base review against their job description
If you haven’t done so already, go back into the employee’s file and take a look at their most recent job description. Base your review off of that document. If their role has changed in any capacity during the year, and they were unable to keep up, this should have been addressed beforehand.

7. Include action items for moving forward
So you just gave your employee a terrible review. What are they supposed to do now? If you were in the unfortunate position of giving them a bad review, then it’s also your responsibility to work with them to come up with action plan of specific steps to take in order to correct behaviours.

8. Follow up
When you and your direct report have developed an action plan, be sure to follow up quarterly, at minimum, to ensure they are on track to addressing and resolving whatever issues caused the negative review in the first place. Remember, it takes time and the appropriate coaching for an employee to course-correct certain behaviours and attitudes.

9. No surprises
Lastly, as I mentioned before, nothing discussed in this performance review should come as a surprise. If it has, then you, as a manager, need to re-visit how often and to what extent you’re providing your employee (mentee) with continuous feedback and mentoring.

If you were unlucky enough to give your employee a negative review this year, it’s probably a good idea to start taking steps to prevent the same thing from happening next year. Later this week, we’ll discuss what to do now, to have a better performance review experience next year.