How to Appraise a Bad Performer Without Offending Him

One of the most challenging tasks for a small business owner is appraising employees’ performance. In an ideal setting, everyone performs satisfactorily, and there’s no need to deliver unfavorable evaluations. In reality, even the best employee can have rough periods in which she performs poorly. Perhaps she has fallen below the company's sales expectation, made a number of recent errors in her paperwork, or contributed to the loss of an important account. Regardless of the reason, or whether the poor performance is new or recurring, it must be addressed. Delivering bad news is not easy, but if handled appropriately, you can do it without offending the employee.

  1. 1.

    Avoid making snap decisions about an employee to ensure you arrive at a fair and balanced conclusion of his performance. If you do decide to discuss his performance, maintain a calm and objective demeanor. Your goal is to get the employee to recognize his poor performance and encourage him to take the necessary steps to improve it. Refrain from becoming angry or frustrated. Instead, think of ways to help him obtain the desired results. If you are hostile, he will mirror your behavior or resent you.

  2. 2.

    Give the employee a self-assessment form to complete before you complete your own evaluation. This lets her reflect on her expectations and whether she has met them. It also involves her in the review process. The employee should state her strengths and weaknesses on the form. Explain to her that by being truthful, you will be better equipped to help her. A self-assessment is also useful because the employee can include accomplishments that you missed or forgot about. It helps if you are both on the same wavelength.

  3. 3.

    Complete your appraisal after receiving the employee’s self-assessment. As his manager, you should be able to gauge whether he is being truthful about his performance. Compare what he has stated on the self-assessment with the facts at hand. This includes reviewing all the work he has done over the review period and verifying that the work was performed below company standards.

  4. 4.

    Schedule the evaluation meeting to occur at a convenient time for you and the employee. Keep in mind that although the employee has performed poorly, she still deserves to be treated with respect. Arrive for the meeting on time and greet her pleasantly. Be specific when relaying your appraisal and show the employee documents that support your rating. Be courteous and diplomatic but refrain from being overly nice. For example, say something positive, say what could be improved upon, then say something positive again. This lets the employee maintain her self-esteem while absorbing where she went wrong.

  5. 5.

    Reaffirm what is expected of the employee. He knows you have expectations of him. Explain how his failure to meet those expectations affects you and the company. For example, say that you want all of your employees to succeed and the company to grow, and for that to happen, everyone must meet or exceed their job expectations.

  6. 6.

    Acknowledge the employee’s weaknesses and set clear goals to help her achieve them. Offer available resources, such as training or seminars. Document each goal and the standards and timeline for achieving them and give the employee a copy. During the review, ask if she has any requirements that are excluded from the form. Use this time to gain deeper insight into how you can help her overcome current obstacles.

  7. 7.

    Convey to the employee that if he fails to improve his performance, it will ultimately lead to termination. Be tactful, but firm.He needs to know that there are consequences for poor performance.