When you talk with employees about their performance reviews, beware of using common phrases that can unintentionally communicate the wrong message, or come across as too negative or personal.
Certain phrases can kill employee morale, weaken productivity or open up the organization to a discrimination lawsuit.
Your goal is to deliver reviews that help shape employees' performance without becoming sidetracked by anger, emotion or fear of conflict. To do so, avoid the following phrases:
1. "You're wrong." If an employee tries to explain why her job rating should have been higher, don't slap back with a Trump-like, "You're wrong." That will only trigger anger and more confrontation. Instead, turn back to your documented facts of the employee's performance and say, "I know you disagree, but I believe this evaluation accurately reflects your performance."
"What was your problem?" Don't use the question as a way to ask why an employee had difficulty completing a project or task. Employees will bristle at such a statement. Instead say, "What were the conditions from your perspective that made it difficult for you to complete the task?"
2. "I understand." This phrase can excuse unacceptable performance or behavior by conveying empathy. Avoid it when possible.
3. "Your position here is solid as long as you keep up the good work." You may intend such statements to encourage good performance, but they're legally dangerous because they imply an employment contract that a court could find binding. That limits the organization's ability to ever fire the person (see below).
4. "You really did a great job but ... " Whatever comes after the "but" negates the preceding compliment. Don't directly connect praise with constructive criticism. Instead say, "On the other hand, you can do even better by making these improvements." Then, cite them specifically.
- A 6-point checklist to prepare for the review session, plus 10 tips to conduct more effective reviews
- 5 evaluation tools that help rehabilitate problem employees
- 3 types of employee rating scales, from the simplest to the most complex
Using the wrong employment-related terminology with an employee can expose the organization to all kinds of costly lawsuits. Here are two of the most common examples:
1. 'Permanent employee'
"Employment at-will" is the rule in most states. That means you can fire an employee at any time, for any reason (except an unlawful one, like race discrimination), as long as you don't promise a job for a specific period of time.
But too many managers don't realize that labeling someone a "permanent employee" essentially promises a job for life, or at least until retirement age. And that can destroy the employee's at-will status.
Managers often make the mistake of referring to employees as "permanent employees" when the employee passes their 60- or 90-day probationary period.
Advice: Start using the term "regular employee."
Use the term "layoff" only when you end an employment relationship due to lack of work. If you end the relationship for any other reason, call it a "discharge."
Can this little word become a big deal? You bet.
For example, if the unemployment office is told the employee was "laid off," even though you fired him for stealing, the employee could be deemed eligible for unemployment compensation ... a part of which your company may have to pay. Even more costly is misusing the term when dealing with a government agency investigating a discrimination charge.
The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews will teach you and your managers:
Get your copy here...
- How to phrase job descriptions so they cannot be construed as promises of future employment, remuneration or promotion. Did you know … courts in some states have deemed job descriptions to be legally binding contracts!
- 13 tests every job description must pass
- 6 ingredients every job description must include
- 1 big no-no when you must terminate an employee
- 4 tests to determine if a job description violates anti-discrimination laws
- Who should draft job descriptions – and who shouldn’t
- 8 ways to make sure the performance standards you establish are realistic, plus 5 ways to determine whether they are clear and relevant
- 8 paths to effective logging of employee performance, and the 12 check-boxes every performance log must include