With the calendar year drawing to a close, many organizations find themselves in the process of preparing and delivering annual performance reviews of their employees. These performance reviews are an important means of communicating with employees about their strengths, weaknesses and suggested areas for improvement. In light of the importance of these documents, we recommend that you keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Put performance reviews in writing.
- Be accurate and clear, especially when documenting performance deficiencies that might eventually be used as grounds for termination of employment.
- List and describe areas where improvement is expected.
- Have supervisors meet in person with employees to discuss their performance reviews.
- Have employees sign their performance reviews to acknowledge receipt of them.
- Where required by law, such as in Connecticut, notify employees in writing that they have the right to submit a written rebuttal to a performance review.
- Maintain performance reviews in employees' personnel files.
- Base any performance evaluation or any other employment decision (e.g., raises, bonuses) on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-protected characteristics, such as race, color, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status or any other category protected by law.
- Exaggerate an employee's strengths or provide higher scores than deserved.
- Use solely numerical scores; written narratives are much more informative.
- Retaliate against an employee for having engaged in activity that is legally protected, such as complaining about wages, overtime, working conditions, harassment, etc.
- Criticize or penalize an employee for having taken a protected leave of absence, including but not limited to leaves taken pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
- Criticize or penalize an employee for seeking or receiving a reasonable accommodation for a disability.
- Fail to complete and deliver performance reviews just because they are time-consuming or difficult; as noted above, such reviews are critical both for evaluating annual performance and for establishing and communicating future expectations.