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How to Conduct Employee Reviews

While it is not uncommon for managers and employees to be on opposite sides of an issue, there is one quintessential example where there is undeniable consensus – their feeling on performance reviews. Often filled with agony and discomfort, many performance reviews are poorly designed and conducted, and fail to provide the intended benefit. Ultimately, performance reviews are mutually beneficial. They provide supervisors with an important opportunity to ensure that employees are successfully meeting their job requirements. Meanwhile, they provide employees with an avenue to raise concerns they may have. Additionally, a well-prepared and delivered performance evaluation is a great way to align employees’ development and professional growth with the needs and objectives of the employer.

Most importantly, for employers, the legal implications of performance evaluations cannot be overstated. Conducting performance reviews and documenting discipline are the best tools for employers to defend against claims of harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation. Providing detailed and unbiased performance reviews, while also allowing employees the opportunity to meet and review their performance, will go a long way in demonstrating an employer’s legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for any adverse employment actions.

Do’s: Best Practices for Conducting Employee Performance Reviews

  • DO utilize an objective performance appraisal that properly evaluates each and every one of the job duties and responsibilities of your employees;
  • DO apply the same objective performance standards to all employees within the same job category;
  • DO ensure the performance review is an interactive process by requiring employees to conduct a self-assessment prior to their reviews;
  • DO create, discuss and document an attainable performance improvement plan (PIP) to address performance deficiencies and document any disciplinary action that may be imposed for failure to comply with the PIP;
  • DO maintain detailed records of conversations regarding job responsibilities and performance issues leading up to the review as well as those which took place during the performance review itself;
  • DO maintain an open and on-going dialogue with all employees about what is expected;
  • DO take the time to praise employees for their contributions to the workplace and reward employees for a job well-done.

Don’ts: What to Avoid When Preparing and Conducting Employee Performance Review

  • DON’T provide negative feedback without creating and discussing a path to success;
  • DON’T discuss the work performance of other employees as doing so only builds resentment;
  • DON’T avoid difficult questions. Provide clear and truthful answers to questions and concerns, no matter how sensitive or uncomfortable the subject may be;
  • DON’T use closed-ended or rhetorical questions. The performance review session should be a lively discussion, with both parties contributing to the conversation;
  • DON’T forget to offer an opport-unity for the employee to provide feedback;
  • DON’T ignore unacceptable behavior in hopes that the issue will correct itself.

About the Authors: Dina M. Mastellone, Esq. is a partner and chair of Genova Burns LLC’s human resources practice group. Vincent A. Beraldo, who assisted in preparing this article, is a third year law student at Georgetown University Law Center.


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