What Do You Do When an Employee Won’t Sign Their Performance Review?

Conscientious ObjectorIt’s annual performance appraisal time. You’ve finally prepared your employee’s review, sat down with them, and provided your feedback. You slide the paperwork across the desk and ask them to sign the form at the bottom.

Your employee looks up and says, “Nope, I’m not going to sign that. I don’t agree with what you’ve said.”

What now?

How would you react to an employee refusing to sign their performance review?

You can probably think of several options at this moment.  You could:

  • Ask them what their issues are and change the appraisal so they would agree to sign it
  • Tell them they will face discipline for not signing it, so they better just go ahead and do it now
  • Just fire them on the spot for their gross insubordination
  • Say, “Fine, don’t sign it,”  and leave it at that

There are actually some better options.

First, remember the purpose of a signed performance review:

The purpose of the signature is not to indicate that the employee agrees with the contents of the appraisal. Rather it is to indicate that the employee has received the appraisal.

It is important, therefore, that you have something that does indicate that they’ve received it. Performance reviews are part of employee file documentation that becomes the basis of decisions regarding compensation, promotion/demotion, discipline and even termination.

Explain the purpose of the signature to your employee:

Explain to the employee that they are not signing that they agree with the review, but only that they have received it.

Offer the employee the opportunity to write their own comments to be added into the file along with the appraisal. This gives them the chance to offer their opinion, while also acknowledging that they have received and read the appraisal.

If they don’t want to add their own comments, another option is for them to write a note or statement on the document stating that they have received the appraisal, but do not agree with its contents.

What happens if the employee still refuses to sign it?

If the employee refuses to do any of the above, you still have a couple options available to you.

Sometimes, giving the employee a bit of time is helpful. Let them have a day or two to consider the contents, then meet with them again. Most likely they’ll then be able to either provide their own statement to be added to it, or be willing to at least sign that they have received it even if they disagree.

If they still won’t sign for it, you may want to ask another manager to step into the room and witness that the employee is unwilling to sign the appraisal.

At a minimum, you can sign it yourself with a note stating that the employee was given the appraisal and has refused to sign it.

The wrap-up:

Always keep in mind that the purpose of the performance review is to give the employee positive and constructive feedback. Don’t let the process of getting a signature get in the way of that.

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