Performance reviews are often viewed with trepidation by both managers and employees because of the negative feelings they can inspire. If you are responsible for writing reviews for your staff, turn them into an opportunity for growth and development. With attention to detail and careful planning, you can eliminate the negative stigma that surrounds review time.


The key to writing effective performance reviews is preparation; too often, managers leave them until too late and are forced to use only their recent memory. To make sure you are making a fair assessment, keep notes all year so your review covers the entire review period. This is particularly important if an employee has had a rough few weeks or months because it will ensure that you consider past performance. If you have a hole in your notes or if you want backup, read through your emails to spark your memory about months past.

Give Good with the Bad

When writing performance reviews, it can be too easy to focus on the negative aspects of the review. Don't forget to praise your employees to let them know that you notice the positive things they do. Be specific and give examples of inspiring behavior and let the employee know exactly how it benefited the company or the team. Focus on new ideas, innovation and effort in addition to performance to encourage creative thinking.

Be Direct

When doling out criticisms, don't beat around the bush to soften the blow. Instead, get right to the point. Give specific feedback instead of generalizations, which can be misconstrued; doing so makes it easier to understand your negative feedback. Use neutral language and include numbers to back up your critique and suggest ways they can improve so they know that you are interested in helping them develop. Mention specific actions you want to see improvement so they can take action instead of feeling confused and helpless.

Ask for Feedback

Give your employees the chance to respond and react to their performance reviews by inviting them in to discuss each review. Allow some time so they can process any emotional reactions and formulate questions. In the process, you might find that you are wrong about something or that you did not fully understand a situation. The meeting also gives employees the opportunity to clear the air and build a trusting relationship -- and lets them know that you are willing to listen.