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How to Deliver a Negative Performance Review

Giving a performance review to an employee not meeting expectations can be difficult. They may not be open to hearing what you have to say or desire to put in additional effort to change their behavior. However, you need to be honest about your team member’s performance and provide concrete ways to improve. If you don’t directly address the issues, your company will continue to be adversely impacted.

Follow these guidelines to give a negative performance review.

Review Your Notes Go over the notes you’ve been taking about the employee’s performance. It’s hard to determine exactly which issues need to be addressed unless details are recorded. Prepare to share specific reasons why the performance review is poor and concrete ideas for improvement.

Start with Something Positive Find something encouraging about the employee’s performance to begin the conversation. Point out something specific they did to help the company, how they did it, and how the results positively impacted the organization. Your teammate will be less defensive and more open to hearing what you have to share. Continue to frame the rest of the conversation in a positive way. Emphasize the fact that you want to help the employee improve so they receive a better review next time.

Ask Questions Encourage open discussion by asking questions. Find out how you can help the employee do better and whether they need anything they’re not receiving. Promote honesty and feedback during your talk. Your team member should feel comfortable providing their own input on issues and how to improve them.

Focus on Specific Behaviors Emphasize facts about the behaviors the employee exhibited that contributed to the adverse review. Focusing on exactly which actions need to improve takes away feelings of the person’s character being attacked. This encourages your teammate to remain open to hearing what you have to say and respond in a calm, thoughtful manner.

Uncover Reasons for Subpar Performance Talk with the employee about the reasons they’re performing below expectations. Maybe they need additional training for a specific skill set or new job responsibility. Perhaps your team member is experiencing personal conflicts at home that distract them at work. Ask how you can help resolve the problem. Provide empathy and support as much as possible.

Document Your Discussion Write down what is discussed during the performance review. Include the meeting agenda and which criteria you based your evaluation on. Compare the information to previous reviews. Note what the employee did to improve their performance and how they can do better before the next evaluation. Highlight the solution to the problem or action plan for improvement. Mention whether you’re taking any serious action or your teammate needs to immediately follow through on part of the action plan.

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