Writing and delivering performance reviews can be one of the most challenging tasks for any manager, and it’s easy to be either too positive or too negative when reviewing a team member’s performance. Sometimes a struggling employee walks away thinking that everything is just fine in his job performance; sometimes a star employee thinks you’re disappointed in her. That’s why it’s important to strike the right tone. Decide ahead of time exactly what you want to convey. What should the employee walk away feeling? Then carefully manage your tone of voice, facial expressions, nonverbal communication, and emotions to convey that tone. Don’t let your own nerves cause you to send mixed messages. For particularly challenging review meetings, you may want to role play the discussion beforehand with another coworker to make sure you are conveying the right tone and are adequately prepared to respond to any challenges or pushback from the employee.
Adapted from “The Key to Performance Reviews Is Preparation,” by Ben Dattner