I’ve written before about why lawyers who defend employers hate performance reviews. Here are tips to writing performance reviews we’ll hate less:

  1. Spell Check is your friend. Use it. It’s very hard to defend a manager’s criticism about an employee’s attention to detail when the manager writes a review that’s full of typos.

    Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo
    Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo
  2. Life is not a popularity contest. If there are performance problems, you need to identify them even if you think doing so will make you unpopular.
  3. Don’t sugarcoat it. If someone’s not meeting expectations, say so. (Yes. This is another way of saying the same thing as number 2, but it bears repeating.)
  4. Don’t mention health issues. There is a time and place to explore whether an employee requires accommodation for a disability. It’s not in a performance evaluation. Blurring the distinction enables employees to portray themselves as victims of disability discrimination.
  5. Don’t just check boxes. Explain. Give examples. Be factual.
  6. Follow your policy. If it says evaluations are given every six months, give them every six months. An employee who didn’t receive his review has an easier time arguing the company didn’t explain what it expected.
  7. Either learn statistics or just accept the fact that, outside of children in Lake Wobegon, not everyone can be above average.
  8. Have the employee sign. Without a signature, the likelihood of the employee denying receiving the feedback skyrockets. They don’t need to say they agree with the evaluation, just that they received it.

Properly done, performance reviews help workers do their best work. But more importantly, they’ll make your employment lawyer a little less crazy.