10 Deadly Sins of a Poor Performance Review Discussion

The biggest single discussion that causes more fear and pain for supervisors and employees is the dreaded performance review. Employees report widespread dissatisfaction with their performance management programs. Managers often lack the confidence or knowledge required to deliver valuable feedback. If executed well, delivering a performance review and focusing on the right type of feedback can impact employee performance by more than 25% and have a positive benefit for both leader and employee.

14.11.20.cartoon forNewsletter


The purpose of a performance review is to:

Establish a clear link between organization and individual objectives.
Promote ongoing communication through coaching and meaningful feedback to employees.
Encourage discussion and development of skills and competencies.
Attract and retain staff.
Identify, recognize and reward high performers.
Identify, recognize and manage low performers.

Employees benefit from performance reviews by:

Having a clear understanding of how individual performance contributes to the company’s success.
Having a clear understanding of how to meet expectations.
Understanding how their performance is clearly linked to rewards.
Identifying their learning and development needs.
Having fair, accurate and regular feedback on strengths and areas for improvement.

Companies benefit from performance reviews by:

Increased productivity.
Link between individual performance and organizational objectives.
Accurate and consistent evaluation of employees’ overall performance.

Acknowledgment of employee contributions.


Whether the performance review is done in person, on paper, or with an online tool, your attitude as a manager will have the most profound effect on your employee. In any case, if you do any of the things listed below I guarantee your next performance review discussion will be a complete flop.


1. Not scheduling sufficient time in a private setting
Schedule enough time to discuss the formal review and answer your direct report’s questions. All performance feedback should be conducted in a private, one-on-one setting without any interruptions.

2. Not rehearsing the conversation prior to the meeting
Rehearse the conversation for a meaningful discussion, particularly when delivering difficult messages. In addition, rehearsing helps ensure that you are confident and professional throughout, and do not appear to be anxious.

3. Not providing the employee with performance review documentation
If they have not read it, offer a copy of your review and allow a few minutes to read the document before starting the conversation.

4. Beginning discussion with areas that need to be developed rather than areas of strengths.
Emphasis on strengths in formal reviews has the greatest potential impact (36%) on employee performance; consequently, managers should initiate the feedback with strengths, followed by development opportunities.

5. Focusing on personality traits
Focus on the employee’s behaviors, not his/her personality, while delivering development feedback. Emphasizing weaknesses can actually damage performance by 27%.

6. Not providing examples to substantiate the review
Validate your perspective with tangible and specific examples. Focus on consistent behaviors and frequent incidents, rather than one-off examples of good or bad behavior.

7. Not providing suggestions for performance improvement
Accompany negative feedback with specific suggestions for doing the job better. Constructive comments on development and specific suggestions for improvement are clearly very valuable and have a potential impact of approximately 7% on performance.

8. Using jargon and obscure words that the employee does not understand
Maintain a structured flow during the conversation and cover one topic at a time to ensure clarity. Include a short introduction, and avoid using jargon/obscure words to describe strengths and development areas.

9. Making the review process discussion a one-way discussion
Give the employee a few minutes to reflect on the feedback once you have delivered the review, and ask for questions or thoughts.

10. Not ending on a positive note and discussing next steps
End the discussion on a positive note with a summary of the performance review. Schedule follow-up meetings to build the individual development plan and monitor progress.

Bottom Line: Performance reviews are important because they help both sides gather thoughts and become more familiar with the areas that are working well and those that need improvement. If done right, reviews can be one of the best tools for developing an employees’ career within a company. If you want to know if you’re doing a good job as a manager when it comes to performance reviews, watch the faces and reactions of your direct reports. Employees shouldn’t be terrified of walking into their performance review meeting. Nothing you should be discussing with them should be a surprise. If you’ve been doing your job properly throughout the year, the performance review discussion should be one more discussion in an on-going dialog of how your employee is performing.