Clear Review has joined Advanced - Discover our full suite of powerful and innovative people management solutions

Find out more
Back to blog

Sentences Managers Shouldn't Use During One To One Meetings

Brunette holding hers hands over her mouth.

We all know how valu­able reg­u­lar one-on-one per­for­mance dis­cus­sions are — but if you say the wrong things, you could dis­en­gage even the most ded­i­cat­ed employees

You have prob­a­bly read arti­cles on the ben­e­fits of reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions. If so, you will be aware of the fact that many large com­pa­nies, such as Adobe and Microsoft, have aban­doned their year­ly per­for­mance appraisal for more fre­quent check-ins. But what you should always keep in mind is it’s not only the quan­ti­ty of meet­ings that is impor­tant; it’s the qual­i­ty and the con­tent, too.

The best man­agers know what to say in order to inspire and moti­vate their team. They lis­ten and they encour­age, with­out judg­ing or los­ing their tem­per. It’s not an easy job and it needs prac­tice. Being a leader takes a lot of hard work and per­sis­tence, but they are ulti­mate­ly able to unite their teams and achieve com­pa­ny goals. How­ev­er, when man­agers are care­less, their words can do seri­ous dam­age, lead­ing to a drop in engage­ment, dis­cre­tionary effort, and morale.

There are many ways to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing a per­for­mance man­age­ment review, as well as a num­ber of dif­fer­ent man­age­ment styles to suit a wide range of per­son­al­i­ty types. But regard­less of how you choose to lead or moti­vate, you should always refrain from using sen­tences that are…

Emo­tion­al or over­ly per­son­al — try to keep per­for­mance man­age­ment reviews objective

When you use sen­tences that begin with phras­es such as I feel” or in my opin­ion”, employ­ees will jus­ti­fi­ably feel that the feed­back is sub­jec­tive and, there­fore, not entire­ly valid. To avoid debates, con­fu­sion or mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, always pro­vide fac­tu­al exam­ples when deliv­er­ing feed­back.

If you feel an employ­ee isn’t putting in suf­fi­cient effort, or you think a par­tic­u­lar employ­ee is under­per­form­ing, or you are con­cerned that an employ­ee is con­fronta­tion­al with his or her team­mates, pro­vide con­crete evi­dence to back up your asser­tion. Sim­ply say­ing I feel your heart isn’t in your work” or in my opin­ion, your work isn’t up to scratch” won’t pro­vide clar­i­fi­ca­tion. It also abrupt­ly shuts down fur­ther communication.

Over­ly broad or gen­er­al — this is par­tic­u­lar­ly crit­i­cal with rela­tion to per­son­al devel­op­ment objectives

As implied above, gen­er­al­i­ties do noth­ing but hin­der a per­for­mance review. When giv­ing feed­back, always be spe­cif­ic and, when deter­min­ing SMART objec­tives and set­ting per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives, ensure they are suc­cinct, clear and under­stood. Employ­ees and man­agers should always be on the same page. They should know what is expect­ed and by when. Employ­ees should know exact­ly how they are pro­gress­ing or where they are going wrong. With­out specifics and def­i­nite exam­ples, employ­ees will nev­er be entire­ly cer­tain and they will nev­er be able to improve or advance.

The 5 most important performance conversations

Learn more about how you can have more meaningful conversations with our collection of free resources on performance conversations.

Learn more

Extreme or all-encompassing

When you use words that are con­sid­ered extreme, you will appear unfair and unrea­son­able, putting employ­ees on the defen­sive. For exam­ple, you shouldn’t say that an employ­ee always” does X or nev­er” does Y. Instead, state that you have noticed cer­tain behav­iours or habits and explain how they are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. You can also dis­cuss what steps can be put in place to assist the employ­ee if they are strug­gling with cer­tain tasks.

On the oth­er side of the coin, you shouldn’t pre­tend that every­thing is per­fect and the employ­ee has noth­ing to improve upon. Even the best employ­ees can devel­op fur­ther and top per­form­ers will want to know how to take their game to the next lev­el. With­out a chal­lenge and with­out advance­ment, your employ­ees will get frus­trat­ed and bored. Remem­ber: although pos­i­tive feed­back can be inspi­ra­tional, employ­ees are gen­er­al­ly open to hear­ing con­struc­tive crit­i­cism, too. In fact, a 2014 Har­vard Busi­ness Review study showed that 57% of employ­ees like to receive neg­a­tive feed­back in order to improve their performance.

Neg­a­tive or judgemental

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, employ­ees have dread­ed per­for­mance appraisals, per­ceiv­ing them as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to be unfair­ly judged and crit­i­cised. But per­for­mance reviews don’t have to be a neg­a­tive expe­ri­ence. It is much more advis­able to focus on the pos­i­tives and strengths. Using this tac­tic, you are much more like­ly to moti­vate your employ­ees and inspire them to work harder.

Don’t com­pare employ­ees to their peers in an unfavourable way. Don’t imply doubt, don’t humil­i­ate and don’t express frus­tra­tion when employ­ees aren’t pro­gress­ing at the rate you expect them to (not easy, but it gets eas­i­er with prac­tice!). Instead, give your employ­ees sup­port; you’ll be sur­prised how far pos­i­tiv­i­ty will get you.

Threat­en­ing or intimidating

Ulti­ma­tums rarely work in life and they don’t work to moti­vate per­for­mance, either. Threat­en­ing employ­ees to per­form the way you would like (or else) isn’t entire­ly effec­tive and will only result in a fear­ful, deval­ued employee.

Refrain from say­ing things like If you don’t start improv­ing, you’re out” or we need you to do a bet­ter job, or we’ll have to find some­one who can per­form your role bet­ter” isn’t like­ly to inspire your employ­ee to work hard­er. Pick your words care­ful­ly and remem­ber that the peo­ple in your work­force are your most valu­able asset. They should be giv­en the respect and sup­port they deserve.

To find out how Clear Review’s per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware can help you improve indi­vid­ual and com­pa­ny per­for­mance, get in touch with us today by book­ing a demo! Click below to book your free per­son­alised demo. 

Book Your Personalised Demo