How to Prepare to Deliver a Negative Performance Review

It’s never fun having to tell someone that their performance review wasn’t good — a negative performance review has all kinds of scary ramifications, not just for that individual, but for the people who have to work with him or her on a regular basis.

Here are some quick tips to try to soften the blow of giving someone a negative review, and some ways to make sure that these sorts of speed bumps don’t derail the morale and productivity that a department has built up over time.

Balance Weaknesses with Strengths

Experienced leaders and managers know to always balance something negative with something positive. This is a very important part of delivering this kind of news to someone – it tempers the negativity inherent in the message. It’s important to highlight what people are doing well if you’re going to be telling them the areas they should improve on.

Assess the Personality

Different people must be handled in different ways. Consider the personality of the individual who’s going to get the review. Plan accordingly. It might take a lot more diplomacy to present something to someone who’s inherently defensive than it would be to someone else who tends to hang on your every word.

Utilize Past Relationships

It’s helpful in these sorts of situations to fall back on relationships that have already been established. Let the person in question know that you understand his or her sacrifice to the company, and that you haven’t forgotten all of the positive things that happened since that person’s hiring. This goes a long way toward promoting rapport that will make it far easier to deliver bad news.

If a person with integrity senses that you’re loyal to them, they’re likely to remain loyal to you. It’s a matter of framing something in a way that says ‘we’re on a team together’ rather than something that seems punitive and threatening to the person who is getting the review.

Create Solutions

There’s nothing worse than someone who comes in with a negative performance review and delivers the news, and just back and listens to awkward silence.

You should never go into something like this without having developed solutions to a problem. Good leaders know that you don’t just come in and say that there is a problem and have everybody sit around feeling depressed.

Provide Guidance

Oftentimes, these solutions are going to come in the form of intelligent, reasoned guidance. Rather than making it seem like you’re telling someone they’re one step away from getting fired, frame it more in a positive way, for example, tying the review to professional development.

In general, you have to respect the person who’s sitting in the other seat. This ensures that the glue that holds your company together will not come a part, and that you’ll continue to have a mutually respectful workplace where people try to work toward the same goals.

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