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7 Etiquette Tips for Successful Employee Reviews

Here’s a great example of how NOT to conduct an employee review, from the TV show “The Office.” In the Season 2 episode, Dunder Mifflin manager, Michael Scott, uses his employee performance reviews to solicit advice on improving his relationship with his boss, Jan. He’s so focused on his own issues, that he doesn’t give adequate feedback on his employee’s performance, and instead gives a curt (bordering on rude) review of employee Dwight Schrute’s performance: “Your performance has been adequate. You may leave. Goodbye.”

While it was good for a laugh, achieving great employee reviews means doing your research, being honest but upbeat and always keeping the company’s interests in mind. And etiquette matters—always.

These seven etiquette tips for successful employee reviews can help guide managers or executives to better establish employee relations and a positive office environment.

1. Be Prepared

With a list of job duties in hand before the review begins, you show your employee that you take the process seriously and that he or she should, too. If a list of job duties isn’t available, get a detailed job description from your human resources department, or research similar jobs in your industry to develop a job description. Have a list of job responsibilities and skills available, and be prepared to discuss how the employee has measured up to each one.

2. Be Engaged

By establishing eye contact and good posture, you demonstrate to your employee that you take their future seriously and that your evaluations and recommendations can help them in their current role and future career. This doesn’t mean you, as a manager, must be humorless. Take a deep breath and focus closely on your employee’s objectives and goals; respond positively or steer the conversation to other objectives or areas for improvement.

3. Be Clear

Straightforward, honest and objective language is always important in the workplace, but even more so during employee reviews. Avoid any perception of inappropriate behavior, favoritism or ethical lapses. Trying to come up with appropriate ways to describe your employee’s strengths or shortcomings? Here’s a handy list to help you get started. Use it as inspiration; don’t stick to catch phrases or clichés for the entire review.

4. Don’t Use Reviews As a Substitute For Real-Time Feedback

Many companies are forgoing the annual employee review in favor of a system that allows employees and employers to offer feedback in real time. This allows employees to immediately address areas for improvement, and companies to tackle problems they may not have been aware of. General Electric is just one company that is turning to this type of review, using an app called “PD@GE,” or “Performance Development at GE.” Company managers still meet with employees each year, but now act as coaches, according to the Forbes article.

5. Be constructive

You can’t assume your employees know where they stand with you as their manager, or where they stand with the company. Every employee—even your least-productive employee—has some positive aspects to his or her work. Figure out what those positives are and include them first in your employee review before you dig into the areas that need improvement. While the familiar “compliment sandwich” is tempting to use during a review, it could undermine your feedback, so stick with specifics about that particular employee.

If your employee is a candidate for training, find ways to integrate professional development to help him or her do better.

6. Be open to progress updates

If your company doesn’t participate in real-time feedback, throughout the year, your employee may want to check in with you to see how they are measuring up to their established goals or points in a plan. Each interaction is an opportunity to share positive feedback, or encourage stronger performance in your employee. If asked, do put compliments or positive feedback in writing. As a manager, you’re likely very busy; it’s important, though, to make the time to help your employees improve.

7. Keep it private

Office gossip can be just as bad as gossip in a high school’s hallways; it’s a good policy to keep what’s said in an employee review in the office. Take notes, write down objectives, goals and concerns—your own and your employee’s—but what is said should stay between the manager and employee.

Performance reviews do more than just shape individual performances; they also help shape a company’s culture. By keeping good etiquette in mind during performance reviews, managers and employees also can elevate a company’s reputation. You don’t want your company to wind up on Glassdoor with a negative review of how it treats its employees. Establishing good etiquette for performance reviews is one way managers and employees can work together to make the company excel.


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