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How to use Scripts When Providing Difficult Performance Reviews

Posted by Mary Bradbury Jones on October 24, 2016

PCC-difficult_performance_reviews.jpgWhen one of your employees is delivering a sub-par performance, you need to have a difficult discussion. Talking to employees about bad performance can be uncomfortable, but having a script for bad performance reviews can make your job easier and give your employee the best chance at improving.

To create a script for bad performance reviews, be sure to include:

  1. The Performance Review Process. Start the performance review by setting expectations for the meeting. You are going to discuss the employee’s performance and work together to find ways to improve it. Then, identify areas where the employee’s performance is lacking by telling them what was expected and how they failed to meet that expectation. For example, “We expect you to be attentive and involved in staff meetings, but you were texting on your phone the entire time.”
  2. Careful language. Be sure your performance review script does not contain any judgmental phrasing that can put your employee on the defensive. Don’t criticize their personality, and use specific, clear examples of performance problems. Do include time for your employee to offer explanation for their behavior, though you do not have to accept their explanation.
  3. A Follow-Up Plan. Your script should include a step-by-step process for how the performance issue can be improved in the future and how you will measure improvements. Allow your employee to own the solution by giving input on how they could improve. Be sure to include a specific deadline by which improvement should be made, and schedule check-in meetings to gauge your employee’s progress. Let your employee know if there will be consequences if they do not improve.

>>> Learn more about Managing Employee Performance

Now that you know what should be included in your script for bad performance reviews, here’s how to get started on making one.

  1. Do research. Pull sales data, coworker feedback and any information you can regarding the employee’s performance. These facts give you evidence of poor performance as well as a starting place for setting improvement goals.
  2. Make your first draft. You’ve researched, now put all the information together in a first draft. Be mindful of your language and always use specific information about results of employee behavior. Try to mix in positive comments with the negative ones.
  3. Ask for input from other managers or staff members. Have others review your draft for ways it can be improved, such as allowing time for employee feedback or including more specific plans for improvement. Run your script past your human resources representative for expert feedback.
  4. Final review. After you have made suggested changes, read through your script one more time. Be sure that you are comfortable with it and feel that it clearly communicates performance problems.
  5. Conduct the performance review. Now you’re ready to speak to your employee. Schedule a private meeting in a location where you won’t be disturbed. Set aside at least an hour so your employee has plenty of time to ask questions. Consider scheduling the meeting for an afternoon, even a Friday afternoon, so your employee has time to consider the review carefully before going back to work. When the review starts, avoid small talk and get straight to the script.

A script for a bad performance review can improve the quality of the conversation between you and your employee. These scripts can help you avoid hurtful, unconstructive comments while clearly communicating your expectations. If your employee does not improve, consider making a script for your next performance review; it will help make a difficult conversation much easier.

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