Managers may dread performance reviews, but employees are more receptive to them than you think. In fact, 77 percent of employees polled by staffing firm OfficeTeam said they consider performance reviews valuable. Only 8 percent said they weren't valuable at all.
Advice: Managers must be alert to these four potential pitfalls that make reviews less effective and heighten the legal risk:
1. Saving up all feedback. Don't wait until the performance review to share compliments and constructive criticism. Offer feedback throughout the year. That way, nothing in the review should come as a major surprise.
2. Winging it. Instead, prepare in advance for individual meetings with employees. Tell the employee what will be discussed, how much time to set aside for the meeting and how you would like him or her to prepare, preferably with a self-evaluation first.
3. Failing to consult others. If employees work regularly with people in other departments, ask those co-workers for feedback prior to the meeting. You may be surprised what you hear.
4. Not following through. Make sure you and your employees reach agreement on key objectives for the coming year, and establish checkpoints to assess their progress in the months ahead.
Looking for more step-by-step advice on how to improve your performance review process? Learn more about our performance appraisal manual for managers. The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews
Remember: Even 'excellent' job evaluation can be retaliation
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that “retaliation” can be anything that dissuades a reasonable employee from coming forward with discrimination charges, employers that lean on workers who file complaints may find themselves facing a lawsuit. In fact, in the right circumstances, an “excellent” evaluation can be retaliation.
Case in point: Kirk Webster, a government employee, filed and settled a series of race discrimination suits. When he was moved to another position, he earned an “excellent” job rating, plus a pay increase. Still, he filed a retaliation lawsuit. Why? Because Webster’s rating wasn’t high enough to earn a bonus that year. The rating, he alleged, was retaliation for his earlier complaints. A federal appeals court sent the case to trial, saying he should have a chance to prove that the excellent rating was still retaliation. Webster v. Rumsfeld, No. 04-1739 (4th Cir.)
Bottom line: Always document evaluations and decisions on bonuses and promotions with tangible job-performance data. Avoid vague generalities, such as “excellent employee,” “hard worker” or “bad attitude” in either positive or negative comments. Instead, use measurements such as sales numbers, work quality, productivity and other valid business reasons to make all decisions.
How you handle yourself during an employee's performance review can have a major impact on how that employee behaves in the months ahead. Will Tom start coming in on time and stop making so many mistakes? Will Marie overcome her lack of confidence and achieve the results you know she's capable of?
It all depends on what you say and how you say it... The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- 10 Secrets to an Effective Performance Review
- One way to stop retaliation cases: Evenly enforce sick-leave documentation rules
- Coming: A smaller EEOC?
- You have the go-ahead: Fire employee if you discover problems during FMLA leave
- Make suggested ADA accommodation offer in writing