Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Minnesota contacted me the other day to discuss his upcoming 90-day performance review with the new Office Manager. The Office Manager is responsible for all administrative, accounting, and customer service responsibilities spanning payroll, tracking enhancements proposals, new hire paperwork, record keeping, and the safety program. While the owner told me the Office Manager was doing an okay job in general, he wanted her to “raise the bar” by taking a leadership role, and at the same time, eliminate some annoying behaviors that are counterproductive to the company culture.

To keep things simple and focused on improving her performance in a meaningful way, I suggested the owner provide the performance feedback to the Office Manager using the “Start-Stop-Keep” method. As the name suggests, I told the owner to organize her behavioral feedback into three categories:

START doing these new behaviors, that the employee is currently not doing, to be more successful.
STOP doing these unproductive behaviors that are making the employee unsuccessful.
KEEP doing these productive behaviors that are making the employee successful.

I reminded the owner that all of the feedback should be: behavioral in nature, not personally-oriented; constructive in tone, intended to improve the Office Manager’s job performance; and presented as an on-going conversation with routine follow-up, not a one-time event. Here is what he came up with:


1) Proofreading all of your work to have more attention to detail
2) Being more organized by filing all paperwork before the end of each work shift
3) Learning more about the new hire process and human resources compliance standards
4) Doing all billing procedures on time, knowing when to bill from operations
5) Creating administrative standard operating procedures


1) Chatting too much
2) Being so passive, by waiting to be told what to do each day
3) Making recommendations to Operations employees about how they should do their jobs
4) Making snarky comments to me that I am not aware of all your work contributions
5) Taking so many smoking breaks


1) Submitting reports to each management team member before the monthly financial review meeting
2) Having excellent customer service skills
3) Maintaining your patience with me
4) Offering to help others
5) Being flexible, as we continue to grow and make the system better

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.