11 Performance Reviews Do’s and Don’ts for Managers

Posted April 24, 2020, by Elesha

Our 11 performance reviews do’s and don’ts are a must-read for managers; especially if you haven’t been in a leadership role very long.

Want to know how to do a performance review to maximise your team’s results and stop dreading the whole process? Read on!

Do Make Sure Performance Reviews Happen Frequently

Keep check-in’s with your staff a regular thing, not just once a year.

Consider a less formal monthly ‘performance conversation’ then pair this with formal quarterly and yearly performance reviews. 

Frequent reviews mean you keep your finger on what’s happening with your team members and you’re both on the same page about goals, performance, and next steps.

Don’t Get Hung Up On The Past

Overall, performance reviews should be future-focused. 

Obviously you’ll need to discuss a team member’s performance to date – what went well and what wasn’t so great – but don’t get stuck hammering on situations that can’t be changed. 

The bulk of the performance review should be focused on the future – goals, next steps, and expectations. 

Do Lay The Groundwork

2 weeks before a formal review, remind your employee and ask them to note down a few things they’ve achieved since the last review and any outcomes they’re particularly proud of. This helps set things in a positive light. 

This is also time to review your own notes about their performance and gather any confidential feedback from other senior team members who work with the employee. 

Don’t Wait Until Review Time To Address A Problem

It’s a bad idea to save a running tally of all feedback around problems and employee behaviours only to unpack it all at once in a performance review.

This approach won’t help your team members succeed or effectively tackle issues. You need to address issues as they happen directly with the person – not ‘save’ them all up for a performance review. 

Do Make Sure Performance Reviews Are A Tw0-Way Conversation

This meeting isn’t about your staff sitting there and ‘taking’ whatever you dish out to them. 

Effective reviews are a two-way conversation, they are a time for questions and discussing areas of opportunity and expectations – from both parties. 

Make sure you’re asking questions to encourage input, such as – 

  • How do you think you’re tracking towards a project / goal / expectation?
  • What things about a project / goal / expectation would you like to see improved?
  • Do you have any feedback about my participation in the project / goal / expectation?


If the answers aren’t great, dig deeper and ask the employee for any resources they may need or guidance they feel is missing.

Don’t Give A Cookie Cutter Review

Everyone on your team is different. Don’t go into the review with the old-school ‘sandwich’ approach of complimenting, giving critical feedback, then complimenting again. 

This only sugar coats things for the under performers who actually need more focus on the critical feedback – the review is the time to demand improvement. 

It can discourage your star performers who’ve been really kicking goals – your focus for them should be almost exclusively positive. Adapting your approach to each individual will help you establish a more trusting, effective relationship with your employees. 

Do Keep A Paper Trail Of Feedback And Performance Review Outcomes

The proof is in the paper trail, not your memory.

It’s a bad idea to simply throw together your top-of-mind feedback an hour before the review. 

Instead, get into the habit of keeping notes on team members’ behaviours and outcomes – be it impressive results or improvement needed. These notes will form the basis of solid and holistic performance review feedback. 

Remember though, critical behavioural or performance issues should be addressed in the moment not saved exclusively for the review – as mentioned earlier. Keep a paper trail of how and when these issues were raised. 

Don’t Give General Feedback – Especially To Poor Performers

Performance reviews are not the time for vague direction.

Feedback on behaviours you want your employee to stop, start and continue need to be clear and specific. 

This is especially important for underperforming employees who have entered into the ‘performance management’ zone where their job is at risk if things don’t improve.

You need to be clear on the issues, next steps and how their improvement will be evaluated. 

Do Separate Performance Reviews And Discussions Around Pay 

Money should be the last point of discussion in a performance review or ideally, be left to a separate meeting entirely.

It’s difficult to get an employee engaged about aspects of their performance during a meeting where they know they’ll be informed of their bonus or changes to salary. It’s not surprising money is where their mind will be focused. 

Keep performance and pay discussions as separate conversations – with a meeting around compensation to follow the performance review.

If that approach doesn’t align with company policy – ie, both are to be discussed in the same meeting – leave salary discussion until the end. 

Don’t Avoid Awkward Conversations Or Negative Feedback

Steer clear of the hard conversations and you won’t be doing yourself or your team any favours.  Keep these tips in mind for giving constructive and fair feedback –

  • Be direct and concise
  • Be clear about the path to improvement
  • Stick to the facts 
  • Listen and ask for feedback from the employee on the issue


It’s definitely the hardest part of a manager’s job – and a reason many don’t look forward to review time – but delivering constructive criticism is necessary.

Do Use These Phrases If You’re Stuck On How To Word Feedback

Your choice of words is extremely important in a performance review – especially when you’re handling the more tricky, not so pleasant feedback.

If you’re worried about stumbling over your words, use these template phrases to guide you. 

When performance has been positive:

  • It’s clear you excel at (insert action) – I’d love to see more of that from you. 
  • I really encourage you to keep doing (action). I’ve received positive feedback from other team members that this has really helped the (result)


When improvement is needed:

  • My feedback on (the issue) is to stop doing (action) to avoid (consequence) happening again. Instead, I’d encourage you to start (action) to help you achieve (intended result)


Hopefully, our performance review tips for managers will help guide you in setting up and delivering effective, professional reviews that help your team be the best they can be!

If you’ve recently been promoted to your first management position, have a read of our 5 Preparation Strategies For First-Time Managers. 


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