It can be uncomfortable to criticize a subordinate’s performance. As a result, some supervisors resort to writing generic, positive. But that can come back to haunt the employer later.
Here’s why: If you later discharge the employee and he sues, he might be able to use those good reviews as partial proof that discrimination could have been the real reason he lost his job.
Recent case: Andrelino is black and of Portuguese origin. He was hired to manage dining services at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He was the first black food service manager at the university. He got good-to-excellent performance reviews that never mentioned any problems with hisstyle or the work he did.
Then his contract wasn’t renewed. He asked why and several months later, a university representative explained that there had been problems with his management style that had been “communicated” to him previously. Andrelino claimed no one had ever said anything while he was employed.
The court said his positive reviews could serve as the basis for his case and as evidence that he might have been fired for discriminatory reasons. That may not be enough for him to win, but it was enough evidence to send the case to a jury trial. (Cardoso v. University of Minnesota, No. 1-88, DC MN, 2016)
Final note: Encourage managers to always include at least constructive criticism in their reviews. If nothing else, it may help a great employee become even better.