Giving performance reviews can be tricky, specifically those that involve putting an employee on a performance improvement plan. You don’t want to damage your worker’s ego, but at the same time you don’t want to give the impression that the PIP is a suggestion. Here are a few tips on how to make a difficult process a little easier.

Be prepared

Before conducting a performance review, make sure you are adequately prepared. Know exactly what you’re going to say before the meeting. Have all documentation noting the employee’s shortcomings at hand, along with a copy of the performance improvement plan. If you get nervous during one-on-one confrontations, bring a small bottle of water in with you.  Mentally ready yourself for a potentially explosive reaction from the employee. Lastly, if at all possible, schedule the performance review on a Friday. That way, your employee will have time to process your feedback before returning to work.

Be straightforward

You may feel the impulse to sugar coat your words when giving a performance review. That impulse, which is really just your own need to be liked manifesting itself, should be ignored. The best way you can help an on the bubble employee is explaining to them what their issues are in plain and direct language. As this Business Insider article points out, the best piece of advice that Apple founder Steve Jobs gave to his design chief Jony Ive was to never let his personal vanity affect the quality of the work.

No second chances

If you have an employee that you need to put on a performance improvement plan, you need to make it clear that failure to abide by it will result in termination. As a small business owner, you don’t have the luxury of giving a human albatross a second, third or fourth chance to hurt your company. Do as this ERE Media piece suggests, and let your underachiever know that their performance review is the end of the line.

Don’t be too negative

The purpose of a performance review is to let an employee know how management views the quality of their work. People have a tendency to regard negative criticism as a personal attack, so make sure you include some positive feedback in the review. Giving your remarks some balance will increase the likelihood that your comments will be taken to heart. If you can’t think of any positive aspects of your employee’s performance, you need to fire them as soon as possible.

Make it a conversation

According to this About Money post, conversation should be a key aspect of a performance review. In addition to letting your worker know where they stand, ask them about their professional ambitions. Find out if there’s anything you can do to help them realize those goals. Lastly, ask whether or not there’s anything you could do to become a more effective leader. By demonstrating your willingness to take feedback, you model the behavior you expect from your employees.


This article was written by Mario McKellop for Small Business Pulse


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