Performance Review Tips: DOs and DON’Ts

Melissa Fasulo
July 6 2021

There is so much to be said when it comes to annual or quarterly performance reviews. The truth? It is the little things you do for your employee year-round to monitor their progress and provide the support that will truly make a performance management effective.

It is essential as a manager to keep track of your employee’s development, provide support, and set them up for success. It all begins with fostering and maintaining a professional relationship with your employee. Make it a point to meet with them regularly. Start by scheduling recurring meetings, including the semi-annual and annual reviews, so that your employee can look forward to them (employee performance management software for SMBs simplifies the job). The basis of these meetings is to collaboratively provide performance feedback, raise awareness, offer solutions and answer any other questions or concerns. Remember, a performance review discussion is a two-way conversation, and thus each party must have an equal opportunity to communicate and be listened to.

Tip: To avoid poor quality meetings, allow enough time, prepare for them in advance and strategize a structure. Be sure to confirm that the allocated dates and times work for them. Oh, and do TAKE NOTES. These notes will serve you wonders for your performance appraisals.

Now that we got performance management covered on a micro-level, let us look at our tips for managers: the DOs and DON’Ts of performance reviews.


1. Gather and Compile Your Notes from 1:1s

Create a list of projects and goals achieved or a chart to use as a reference for results. Facts and examples make the feedback accurate and explain how their performance or behaviour has affected the outcomes.

2. Listen to the Employee

Ask what they think of their performance. Get their take on how they feel they did on specific tasks and if they are satisfied with what they have achieved. This can even extend to asking if there were any challenges, ideas, or opportunities they would like to discuss. Remember, asking for their opinion is a way of empowering them.

3. Support Your Feedback

List all the tasks and projects that the employee has done well in and explain how their achievements have positively influenced the organization. For constructive feedback, address one area of development at a time so that your employee understands well what needs to be improved. This will avoid discouragement or overwhelm. Take the time to explain how their improvements will be favourable for the organization and offer examples.

4. Provide an Action Plan

Offer training, provide mentorship and be solution-focused. A proactive manager creates an action plan with set goals and deadlines to evaluate the progress. Track and document these action steps and goals for your subsequent follow-up. Remind your employee that you prioritize their success, efforts, and development. Express your confidence in their ability to improve.

5. Follow-up

Check-in with the employee after the performance review meeting to see if the action steps set in place have been working or if adjustments are needed. Be understanding if the initial plan requires changes. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and finding the right strategy for your employee can take time. Together, you can find the ideal system. 


1. Don’t Use the Word "But"

When introducing constructive feedback after giving positive feedback, use the word and to transition. This makes the positive comment feel much more sincere. The word but can leave the employee feeling as though their accomplishments were not good enough.

2. Don’t Only Focus on Things to Improve

…or rush through the accolades. Make sure to give proper recognition to what they are doing well and express your gratitude and appreciation. Honouring even their smallest gestures counts.

3. Don't Do All the Talking

Be sure to ask your employee how they think they can improve or how you can help to be more effective and engaged with their progress. Allow them to share their solutions, and together, you can create a roadmap to success. Don’t be the only one offering constructive feedback and coaching. You and your employee are a team.

4. Don’t Listen to Reply, Listen to Understand

In other words, don’t interrupt your employee when they are speaking. Communication skills involve listening, speaking, observing and empathizing. Your employee should have your full attention. If you disagree with their statements, don’t react to emotion. Instead, advise them you are taking note of the situation and will get back to them. If you cannot answer their questions or concerns, jot them down, let them know you will get back to them, and anticipate a date for the follow-up. 

5. Don’t Bad Mouth

It goes without saying, but we say it anyway: never blame other employees, or compare one employee to another. Every appraisal should be anonymous, unbiased and remain professional. This means no gossip or belittling of any sort.

6. Don't Be Vague or Digress

You want to be clear and factual with the comments you are sharing. Your employee should not feel confused with mixed messages and have to guess what it is you are trying to say. To ensure your employee understands, ask them if they do. 

Employee performance reviews don’t have to be dull. They are not a chore, and they shouldn’t instill any fear in your employee. In the meetings leading up to the performance appraisal, mention that you are excited and look forward to their evaluation. Invite them to prepare any questions or comments they’d like to share. With the proper preparation and mindset, a performance review is sure to develop and motivate your team members towards success effectively.

After all, a purpose-driven employee is your most valuable asset, and their success is yours. 

Don't know where to start?

Our free performance review template covers all the bases for a successful performance evaluation.

Download your performance review template!


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