“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” — Frank A. Clark
“As the adage goes, ‘Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you,'” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.” “What you say to your employees in their annual reviews can chart a better course for their future, or demoralize them.”
Words spoken by an authority figure, such as a manager or boss, are particularly impactful, she explains. “That’s why it’s a good idea to choose them carefully — to ensure your employees know you care about them and their performance, and to inspire them to give the best they have to offer.”
Here are 14 phrases to avoid in the performance review:
‘Jane can do this — why can’t you?’ Or, ‘None of your coworkers seem to struggle with this — what’s your problem?’
“Contrasting one employee against another is likely to elicit shame, envy, and resentment. Focus instead on what this employee can do differently to get a better result,” says Price.
‘Everything is perfect.’
Don’t pretend everything is perfect.
Chances are, it’s not. Even the best employees can improve on a thing or two.
If this person is doing a great job, of course you should tell them that — but then talk to figure out ways to bring them to the next level.
And if everything is not great, don’t lie and say it is. Of course you want to be encouraging and acknowledge this person’s achievements, but don’t sugar coat everything. If you really, truly want to help this employee, you’ll need to tell them what they can be doing better, and offer your support as they work to accomplish those things.
According to a 2014 Harvard Business Review study, 57% of employees like to receive negative feedback, while only 43% like hearing positive feedback only.
But make sure you go about giving negative feedback the right way.
‘You always/never do X.’ Or, ‘Everyone thinks Y.’
“Generalities are the quickest way to put the employee on the defensive,” Price explains. “Constructive feedback is specific, timely, and actionable — it’s the basis for an honest beneficial performance evaluation.”