Every time I provide managers with training on how to best discipline and evaluate employees I sound like a broken record, repeating the following mantra: "Be fair, but honest. Do not sugarcoat or fail to address performance problems."


A recent Michigan case demonstrates the dangers of not following the above advice.  In Chlystek v. Donovan, the Court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment even though the employer claimed that the reason a younger employee got a promotion was because there were performance problems with the older employee. 


The reason for the denial of the motion?  As the Court succinctly stated "For sixteen years, he received glowing performance reviews."  Those reviews called into question the claims that he was a bad employee. For all we know, this employee had performance issues, but when the written reviews say the exact opposite, it’s tough to argue with the Court’s decision.


Although managers who ignore deficiencies in reviews are problematic, so are the managers who are unduly harsh in reviews.  Even reviews that bring up major performance issues should be done in as constructive a manner as possible. After all, you don’t want your employees to feel like this going into their reviews: