The Effect of Negative Performance Evaluations on Future Performance

by Jill Leviticus

Negative reviews are intended to let a poorly performing employee understand his shortcomings and weaknesses. Unfortunately, some employees become so demotivated by a poor review that they fail to make the changes needed to improve performance. Understanding how negative reviews can affect your employees can help you refine your performance review system.

Performance Improves

In the best case scenario, the employee resolves to do a better job after receiving a negative review. When you include positive comments about some aspect of the employee’s performance in addition to criticisms, your employee might feel that trying to improve his performance is worth the effort. If the entire review is negative, the employee might become demotivated and feel as if the situation is hopeless. Reviews that present negative information but also offer strategies and assistance to help the employee improve can be helpful in improving performance.

Resentment Soars

It’s difficult to react unemotionally when someone provides you with a long list of your failings. Even if you’re careful to limit your criticisms to the employee’s performance and don’t make personal comments, the employee might feel angry, bitter or resentful. When negative reviews breed negative feelings, employees might focus less on their work and more on mentally updating their resumes. Resentful, bitter employees can infect the entire department with their negative comments and attitudes, which can eventually impact motivation and performance.

Trust Disappears

As a manager, it’s important to know when employees encounter problems when working on a task. When you deliver a negative performance review to an employee, he might be less likely to come to you in the future with problems or concerns because he’s afraid you’ll note the problem as another negative on his next review. If you’re not informed of issues, small problems can quickly become big problems that require considerable time and resources to resolve. Trust also can be affected if the employee feels that you blindsided him with complaints or failed to take into account mitigating circumstances that affected his performance.

Teamwork Plummets

Everyone knows they’re supposed to keep the results of their reviews private, but that doesn’t mean that’s what actually happens. It’s only human nature to share this information when people spend eight or more hours together every day. If an employee finds out that another employee received a favorable review he thinks is unwarranted, he might be less likely to help her in the future, particularly if he feels that you favor that employee. Since raises are often based on reviews, an employee might resent his teammates who scored higher and might fail to perform as an effective member of the team.

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