Human Resources News & Insights

Avoid legal pitfalls: 8 quick performance review do’s and don’ts

“It’s the best time of the year — time for performance reviews!” said no one, ever.

Both managers and employees get anxious when annual reviews come around. But managers may have it worse. 

Performance reviews can win or lose a lawsuit if an employee sues for wrongful termination, so the pressure’s on managers to get them right.

That also puts the onus on employers to create an effective and legally defensible review process.

Reviews: The good and the bad

To help, attorneys Susan DiMickele, Tara Aschenbrand, Jill Kirila, Meghan Hill and Traci Martinez of the law office Squire Patton Boggs compiled a quick-hitting checklist of best practices when it comes to creating defensible evaluations.

Some things they recommend employers do:

  • Set up a standardized system for establishing goals, rating performance and suggesting improvement plans
  • Be clear about what employees need to do to attain goals and any corrective actions they need to take, including specific recommendations when possible, and
  • Balance out criticism by offering up specific examples of what employees do well.

The attorneys also highlighted some common mistakes managers should avoid during reviews.

They are:

  • Failing to follow established review procedures and timelines
  • Not having enough supporting documentation to back up critiques
  • Failing to have written performance ratings sync up with verbal comments made during the review
  • Giving inflated ratings to avoid having difficult conversations or hurting workers’ feelings, and
  • Putting forth a review not grounded in specific facts.
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