Performance management: delivering and receiving a negative message. 3 tips for employees and managers.

For many people it’s that time of year when organisations are completing their annual performance review and appraisal deliveries. It can be a daunting time for both managers and employees alike. For managers who find themselves needing to deliver a negative message it can be a highly stressful situation. For employees on the receiving end of a negative message it can be devastating on so many levels with far reaching implications.

In my role as a Business and Career coach this is a scenario that clients come to me with frequently at this time year.

Here are my three tips for Managers AND employees based on my 25 years management experience that will help with this situation from both the managers and the employee’s perspective.


1: No surprises.

An employee should NOT be surprised when you sit down to deliver the appraisal. Good managers meet with their employees on a regular basis and discuss performance against agreed expectations. If an employee is not performing, have the discussion real time, NOT at the end of the year.

2: Trust is key.

Work on developing the relationship with your employees. Trust is built and earned, it is not a right. Having a relationship with a direct report that is built on trust will enable even difficult conversations to go better.

3: Be Prepared.

If you need to have a difficult conversation with a direct report make sure you are prepared. Find a private area , maybe a meeting room where this conversation can be confidential. Have the data to support your message. Be prepared for this to be an emotional discussion. Let the employee have their say. Give them time. If emotions are running very high and all listening has gone, consider terminating the meeting and schedule a follow up when you are both calmer. A follow up meeting is key irrespectively as you will need to work with your employee to address any issues once they have internalized the message.


1: Know the WOW.

What is your managers WOW. Get to know your managers Way OWorking. Do this through observation and questioning. Ask yourself if your style is supporting or conflicting with this and how possibly it can be adapted to your mutual benefit. This is key in that it ensures you and your manager are communicating on the same frequency!

2: Manage your manager!

Request regular meetings with your boss to discuss your performance. Agree clear expectations for the next review period. Understand your strengths and areas for development. Keep your boss in the loop formally and informally on key project progress. This will ensure there are no surprises come appraisal time.

3: Solve your managers problems.

Ask yourself, am I solving my managers problems or am I adding to them? Do I know what my managers key issues are? Am I making her life easier or more difficult? This is key , particularly, if you are looking to progress in the organization.

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