Human Resources News & Insights

Top 4 phrases HR pros should avoid during performance conversations

For many managers, especially newer ones, performance-based conversations are uncomfortable.

But these conversations are a critical part of the job and saying the wrong thing during these conversations can demoralize employees – especially if those staffers are already struggling.

That’s why managers need to pay close attention to the specific language these use.

According to Vip Sandhir, the founder and CEO of employee engagement software firm HighGround, these are four phrases managers should avoid:

‘Here is what I need from you’

Sandhir says this phrase alienates staff by focusing on the manager’s needs and not the employee’s.

A better option: Asking employees where they feel performance improvement is needed most.

‘Tell me about your challenges’

Another seemingly harmless phrase that can potentially lead the conversation in a negative direction by focusing first on the difficulties.

A better option: Lead with the positive and say, “Let’s focus on your progress so far.”

‘You can get it done on your own’

Managers shouldn’t just assume an employee can get a project done on their own, they should make sure their staff has the tools and support.

A better option: Asking employees what they need to get the job done.

‘Let’s touch base sometime soon’

Follow-up shouldn’t be left open-ended; it should be planned.

A better option: Put the follow-up in the calendar even if it’s weeks or months away.

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  • Gary Dumais

    Yes! This article is very helpful because it not only brings attention to the need for careful use of phrasing during performance reviews, but also provides better options for people to use! As a business psychologist, one thing I do before giving feedback is to take a moment to put myself in the other person’s shoes (i.e., truly empathize with them), as it helps me to phrase feedback in a way that will be most receptive to them.