Do you need to write an employee review? Its one of the most dreaded and important valuable resources in a manager’s toolbox, yet many managers don’t know how to give a performance review of an employee.

Here are 10 dos and don'ts to help you create a positive and productive experience.

1. Avoid surprises
DON’T: Wait until the review to address issues, or surprise the employee at the review with unexpected negative feedback.
WHY NOT?: This disallows the opportunity for the employee to correct the problem and work toward a positive review.
DO: Provide immediate feedback when issues arise and work with the employee to address issues. Meet with the employee throughout the review period.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: "As we discussed before…"
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "I’ve been meaning to tell you… "

2. Prepare
DON’T: Wait until just before the assessment to write an employee review.
WHY NOT?: It’s easy to forget performance. Your review needs to reflect the entire performance period, and this takes advanced preparation.
DO: Document exemplary and poor performance throughout the year to keep track and be automatically prepared when review time comes using process improvement forms and documentation such as the “Instant Performance Documentation Form.”
POWER PHRASE / What to say: "I’ve reviewed my records from the past year and found…"
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "I didn’t have time to…"

3. Stay professional
DON’T: Chat about personal topics in the review.
WHY NOT?: Even a friendly inquiry into childcare issues or about parents who are ill could be interpreted by the employee to be evidence of discrimination
DO: Stick with issues related to the employee’s performance and conduct in the workplace.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: "'We’re here today to review the successes and lessons from last year and to make plans for next year."
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "How are the kids?"

4. Observe balance
DON’T: Provide exclusively negative feedback, even where there are serious performance concerns.
WHY NOT?: It can be demoralizing and demotivating and a review that only contains negatives makes a supervisor appear unfair, which can work against your company should you need to defend a claim.
DO: Acknowledge the employee’s contributions and positive efforts.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: "There was some improvement in the area of…
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "I can’t find anything to acknowledge you for."

5. Be respectful
DON’T: Raise your voice, make personal attacks, use sarcasm or belittle.
WHY NOT?: An employee who feels respected is more receptive when told of performance problems. Employment court cases are often about hurt feelings.
DO: Speak with respect, even if you think they deserve it.
PowerPhrase / What to say: "I understand you’ve given this your best effort, and you need to know that it’s still not up to standard."
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "If this is what you do when you try, I’d hate to see what would happen if you didn’t."

6. Be accurate
DON’T: Make promises you cannot deliver on.
WHY NOT?: Promises can be regarded as a verbal contract.
DO: Speak accurately. Make sure “possibilities” are presented as such.
PowerPhrase / What to say: "The goals and improvements we set will increase your chances to be in a position to…"
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "This time next year, you’ll be in a position to… this time next year."

7. Document appropriately
DON’T: Document conclusions.
WHY NOT?: Only facts are relevant in court.
DO: Document facts. Document concrete examples of performance that lead you to your conclusions, omitting your conclusion.
PowerPhrase / What to say: " 'Called me a 'micromanaging witch.' "
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: "Doesn’t like working for a woman."

Use the “dos” and avoid the “don’ts”
When the time comes for you to write an employee review, remember these 6 dos and don’ts. It will set the stage for the coming year.

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Author's Bio: 

Meryl Runion, CSP, is a Certified Speaking Professional and the author of four books on communication. Her books have sold over 250,000 copies worldwide.

She is the author of a weekly email newsletter called A PowerPhrase a Week, which boast thousands of subscribers.

Her clients include IBM, who find her to be systematic, the IRS who particularly love her in April, and the FBI, who find her to be a person of interest.

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