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The Dos & Don’ts of Employee Performance Reviews


But I thought I was doing so well!

I’ve been here for 30 years. You’re just telling me this now?

Susan comes in late every day, and she’s never been written up. What gives?

Let’s face it: If you’re a business owner or a manager, employee performance appraisals can be uncomfortable. No one likes to receive a “surprise” evaluation that they’re not performing well. What’s more, if you ignore a small issue with an employee now, it could eventually snowball into a bigger problem later… at worst, it could result in an employment lawsuit.

5 Ways to Address Poor Performance with an Employee

Having an established and documented employee performance review can help your business avoid costly discrimination lawsuits. If an employee is underperforming, here’s how to handle it.

  • Be direct and honest. First things first: A poor performance review should never come as a “surprise.” Good managers address poor performance directly when it happens—and always with transparency and empathy.
  • Be consistent. Consistency is key to avoiding claims of discrimination. Make sure you’re holding all your employees to the same standard. For example: If you discipline a low-performing employee for being late, don’t look the other way if a high-performing employee comes in late. (Related: Are you covered when an employee claims harassment or discrimination?)
  • Keep it objective. Hold your employees to an objective standard that they know and have agreed to—for example, an attendance policy or employee handbook. Ensure there’s a legitimate business reason for discipline and avoid the temptation to provide overly subjective feedback.
  • Write it down. Document every action you take during the disciplinary process, including verbal warnings. Writing it down gives you credibility and lets the employee know the specifics of how to improve their performance and what consequences are at stake if they don’t. For serious or final warnings, ask your employee to sign and date the document and add a space for them to comment with feedback.
  • Know when to ask for help. If you feel over your head, reach out to a trusted mentor who has handled employee conduct issues before. And if things get really complicated, contact a human resources or legal professional who knows the ins and outs of employment law.

How can I protect my business against discrimination or harassment lawsuits?

Imagine a worst-case scenario: An employee sues your business for sexual harassment or discrimination (for example, on the basis of age, sex, race or disability). Unfortunately, these types of lawsuits do happen and even if the allegations are found to be groundless, responding to charges like these can cost thousands of dollars.

You can help protect your business by adding Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage to your business insurance policy. Most standard EPL insurance policies offer a measure of protection against lawsuits brought against your business by employees alleging wrongful acts (sexual harassment or discrimination) or wrongful termination. You can purchase and add the coverage to your business policy as an endorsement. Learn more about our custom solutions for business insurance.

Let’s talk liability

Watch this quick video on how EPL coverage works, or contact a local Erie Insurance agent to explain what type of coverage is best for your business.