The Do’s and Don’ts of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews allow us to evaluate our employee’s progress, identify areas for improvement and support their ongoing development. However, conducting performance reviews can be challenging for leaders particularly if they have had limited experience and training in this area. In this blog post, we’ll explore the do’s and don’ts of performance reviews to help leaders conduct effective and productive reviews within their teams.

The Do’s:

Set Clear Expectations

Before the performance review, it’s important to set clear expectations for the employee. This includes communicating the review’s purpose and reiterating the employees’ performance criteria and agreed goals. This ensures that the employee understands what to expect from the review which will help them prepare accordingly.

Be Specific

During the review, it’s important to be specific and provide examples of both positive and negative performance. Use specific examples to highlight areas where the employee excelled and areas where they will need to improve in the role. Being specific will help provide more context to employees on how and where they can improve within their role.

Provide Constructive Feedback

When providing feedback, make sure to focus on constructive feedback that helps the employee to improve. Be honest about areas where the employee needs to improve but also provide guidance on how they can do so. Provide feedback that is actionable and specific and align development activities accordingly.


Performance reviews are a two-way conversation, so it’s important to listen to the employee’s perspective. Encourage the employee to share their thoughts and feedback on their performance, their strengths, and their future career goals. This can help to improve communication, build a stronger relationship between the employee and manager and lead to better performance development outcomes.

Create an Action Plan

After the review, create an action plan that outlines specific steps that the employee can take to improve their performance. Set SMARTA goals and timelines for improvement (see method below). This helps to ensure that the employee has a clear understanding of what they need to do to improve their performance.

Setting clear (SMARTA) goals and expectations:

SpecificSpecific goals are written simply and clearly and describe exactly what needs to be achieved. 
MeasurableInclude something to measure the goal against such as numbers, dollars, percentages, your expectations for standards, customer service measures,  defined quality or quantity measures, etc.
ActionIdentify the actions or milestones that are needed in order to achieve the specific goal. Break it into smaller steps.
RelevantThe goal should be aligned to business plans, strategies or other objectives and should be considered worthwhile and the right time.
TimedThe goal has an end date for completion or key milestone.
AgreedThe goal is agreed by the employee and the leader. 

SMARTA Examples

Identify a hazard in the workplace at least once every 6 months, and apply the organisational hazard management procedure including management of the risk and logging the hazard into the hazard management system.

The Don’ts:

Don’t Focus Only on Negatives

While it’s important to provide constructive feedback, don’t focus solely on the employee’s weaknesses. Make sure to also highlight areas where the employee is performing well and provide positive feedback.

Don’t Use Broad Generalizations

Avoid using broad generalizations when providing feedback. Instead, provide specific examples to illustrate your points. For example, instead of saying, “you need to communicate better,” say, “I noticed that you didn’t respond to my emails on Tuesday and Wednesday this week regarding your project update. That makes it difficult for me to know what going on.”

Don’t Be Defensive

Be open to feedback from the employee and avoid becoming defensive. Remember that the goal of the performance review is to improve employee performance, not to criticize or blame them.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Avoid waiting until the last minute to conduct performance reviews. Instead, schedule them regularly throughout the year. This helps to ensure that employees receive feedback in a timely manner and time to improve their performance.

Don’t Neglect Follow-Up

After the review, don’t neglect follow-up. Check in with the employee regularly to see how they are progressing towards their goals. Provide additional support and guidance as needed.

Effective performance reviews are more than just an appraisal, they are a continuous development and growth cycle. They require clear communication, specific and constructive feedback, active listening, and a plan for ongoing growth and development in order to be successful. By following the do’s and don’ts outlined in this blog post, you can conduct productive and effective performance reviews for your team.