Employee reviews. Those go right up there on the annual list of fun things to do just under getting your teeth cleaned and right above going to visit your in-laws. As a non-confrontational person, just the thought of giving someone negative feedback makes me want to hide under the table. Unfortunately, employee reviews are necessary not only to keep your staff running like a well-oiled machine, but also to cover your back if and when you need to fire a less than stellar worker.

Before you start your reviews, let your employees know exactly what is expected of them (goal setting), how they will be evaluated (measurable achievements), and what the penalties are for unacceptable behaviors (three strikes and you’re out). This should all be in your employee handbook and should be reviewed with your employee when they are hired. Have them sign the document acknowledging that they have read and understand what is required of them and that they agree to the terms.

Worried about time and pressure of the big annual or quarterly reviews? Consider doing mini-reviews at weekly meetings. “Regular performance reviews within my weekly check-in meetings make the process of improving more iterative, easier and less stressful than a ‘quarterly review’ that looms in the background and causes stress for both me and the employee,” states David Greenberg, CEO and founder of Updater, a company that helps individuals easily update contact information with service providers when they move.

Now let’s get to some specifics. Plan about 30 minutes for the meeting, avoid Fridays because if the meeting doesn’t go well you’ll have the weekend to dwell on it and you can’t address the issue right away. You should also schedule it mid-morning which gives you and your employee enough time to settle in and be fresh without worrying over the impending discussion.

For the meeting itself, plan on creating an agenda that touches on the following issues:

  • Discuss the employee job description and factors that measure performance as specified in the employee handbook.
  • Ask “How well do you think you are performing on the job?” This can set the tone for the interview and gives you insight as to what the employee is thinking and how you may want to approach other items on your agenda.
  • What have you as the employer observed, both good and bad, and site specific examples that are dated in the employee’s file. Documenting activities certainly comes in handy when you need factual examples to support your reason for firing an employee or promoting one over the other.
  • If you are correcting an employee’s actions or behavior, explain how to do the job the proper way and schedule a follow up meeting in the near future to re-evaluate the issue at hand.
  • For both good and bad evaluations, discuss the cause and effect of your employee’s actions. “Customers have said that you have gone out of your way to find this product and if you keep going the extra mile, I would love to see you as a manager in the next six months,” or “If you continue to arrive late to work you’ll unfortunately be put on probation.”

Finally, make it a two way discussion. The goal of evaluations is to create a healthy company and showing that you care about your employees and their opinions can promote loyalty and unity. However, if you have an unruly employee or one that you are having difficulties with, contact an employment lawyer to help guide you through the law to protect you and your company. It is better to ensure that you have gone through all of the right channels through creating a strong paper trail than firing an employee and dealing with a lawsuit in the aftermath.

About the author

Christina Morales

Christina helps provide useful business and legal tips on UpCounsel for our customers and visitors. Having over a decade of writing experience in a variety of industries, she has also been very close to the legal space from a young age with family members who continue to practice business and tax law.

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