5 things NOT to say in performance reviews

We enter performance review season with the best of intentions.

And despite the typical resistance from employees (ranging from mild anxiety to ‘rolling eyes’ indignation)…

It’s our job to carefully coach staff to put their best foot forward and improve each day.

Yet in a performance review, just one seemingly-innocent wrongly-uttered phrase can quickly turn the conversation from a chapter out of How To Win Friends and Influence People… to a scene from How To Lose Friends and Alienate People.

Here are 5 things to NEVER say in your next performance review:

1. “If you can’t do XXXX, I’ll find someone that can”

Why this is bad: Threatening employees immediately puts them on the back foot. Creating fear, resentment and possibly even the motivation to look for a new job!

What to say instead: Reframe the comment to the positive. “I believe you can improve in XXXX. Here’s how we can get there…”

2. “Everyone else can do XXXX, why can’t you?”

Why this is bad: Comparing employees to others can make them feel shameful and envious of anyone else you happen to mention.

What to say instead: Focus on them. “I think you can do better in this area. Here’s my thoughts on how to approach it…”

3. “We’re done here.”

Why this is bad: Simply telling employees what YOU think doesn’t give them a chance to provide vital feedback or engage in the process.

What to say instead: Ask for their perspective. “I’d like to know how you are feeling in your role… What’s working and not working? How can I help? Do you have any questions for me?”

4. “I’m a little worried about XXXX.”

Why this is bad: You are implying that you are doubting their ability. This immediately conveys a lack of trust in them.

What to say instead: Swap “I’m worried” with “I’m confident”. “I’m confident that you will handle XXXX this quarter…”

5. “I got nothing, you’re killing it.”

Why this is bad: Even the best employees need coaching to improve. As a manager, it’s your role to help staff develop continually.

What to say instead: Show them where their growth is. “You are really killing it with XXXX, I love how you XXXX and XXXX. For you to get even better, I believe you can XXXX which will do XXXX for our business…”


I hope these simple tips will help to avoid sabotaging your next performance review!

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