Here's exactly what to say to an employee who needs major improvement

Job meeting boss interviewStrelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0Performance review meetings can be awkward for managers and employees alike.

No one likes a bad performance review.

Employees don’t like getting them — and managers don’t like giving them.

For one thing, it’s never great to have someone on your team who isn’t fulfilling their potential. For another, you have to figure out a way to tell them this without sounding like a callous jerk.

To facilitate a tricky conversation and ensure it’s productive, Melissa Greenwell, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Finish Line, Inc. told Business Insider, conversations should focus on what employees can be doing better, not where they have already failed.

“One technique that we’ve been teaching our managers is the idea of using ‘feed forward’ instead of feedback,” Greenwell said. “We start off the conversation by saying, ‘I have some suggestions around something you can do in the future to be more successful,’” she said.

She explained that employees won’t feel as defensive with a conversation structured as a dialogue around ways to achieve success in the future.

Greenwell also suggests conducting more frequent, but shorter, review meetings during the year so that the year-end review isn’t an intimidating hour-long meeting.

“We have come to believe annual performance evaluation conversations are not necessarily a ‘value add’ because people save up feedback for a once-a-year conversation, and forget things or fail to recognise employees for what they have done,” Greenwell said.

By providing “feed forward” on a regular basis, next year’s review should be a lot easier to navigate.

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