Conduct Better Performance Reviews


As an employer, you use performance reviews to assess your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, progress and areas for improvement. For employees, they provide valuable information about expectations for the future.

Performance reviews can be highly productive, if done properly. Otherwise, problems can arise. Your managers, supervisors and HR pros who conduct reviews must be thoroughly trained in the process, to result in an awareness of the importance of honest, accurate and reliable reviews. Be sure that you avoid the typical pitfalls that can occur, so they can be avoided by everyone involved.


Performance reviews should never be shared. Such action could lead to your company being charged with defamation of character.

  • You can be held liable for giving an employee a negative review. Even when an individual’s file includes consistently bad reviews, and even if they were terminated as a result, sharing this information with a potential employer asking for a reference could generate a lawsuit.


Be sure that the criteria used in your employee performance reviews is as factual and objective as possible. Opinions, impressions or assumptions unsupported by facts, concrete explanations, firsthand observations or specific examples are neither beneficial nor useful.

  • Most often, it is an employee’s direct supervisor who conducts their review. This puts the supervisor in a position of judging their workers’ performance face-to-face. This can be uncomfortable or cause long-standing hard feelings. As a result, a supervisor may downplay problems or give undeserved praise.
  • Reviewers must be completely honest in all they say during a review. This material could ultimately be used as legal evidence. Without exception, reviews should accurately reflect the quality and consistency of a person’s work.
  • Avoid quota approaches. These breed inaccuracy. Some supervisors may have an imbalance of strong or weak performing employees in their department. Give them general guidelines regarding the expected distribution of rankings, and require them to justify any deviations.


Both reviewers and employees should add written documentation to performance reviews. For instance, details of any changes or key future plans addressed, discipline, or signs of abuse should be noted in detail.

  • Inaccurate reviews can affect discrimination claims. If an employee receives a highly positive review and then is fired, they can claim that their termination was the result of something other than poor performance. Proper documentation can prove that discrimination was not a factor.

Laws and guidelines on employee performance reviews can be complicated. The facts of every case are unique. To learn more about solidifying your review process, as well as related HR management tools and techniques, explore the CPS Recruitment® resource center.




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