PERFORMANCE REVIEW EXAMPLES, TIPS, AND SECRETS

Examples and tips on writing employee reviews, performance evaluation, sample performance review and employee evaluation forms.

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For managers, reviewing employee performance is a daunting yet critical function of their job. However, it doesn’t need to be a dreaded task. Instead, approach the performance appraisal process as a golden opportunity to give your staff feedback, listen to employee comments, review/update job descriptions, and discuss and correct performance problems. 

In this report, we’ll go over a few basics of performance reviews. We’ll then look at a few performance review examples for different positions. Finally, we have some tips, tricks, and recommendations for making performance reviews more beneficial, and less daunting. 

Effective Performance Review Examples, Tips, and Secrets shows you how to conduct positive, valuable assessments that lead to maximizing staff performance and helping your employees achieve their professional goals and your organization’s objectives.

 HOW TO CONDUCT A POSITIVE, VALUABLE EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION

Sitting down with an employee to conduct the appraisal review is the part of performance reviews most managers dread. But the session doesn’t have to be tense or uncomfortable. It can be a productive, enlightening, and morale-boosting exchange. The key is to go into the review meeting fully prepared and with the right attitude.

Approach the evaluation as a mutual learning experience for you and the employee. You can gain valuable insights from your direct reports, and you have information and experience that can help bring out their best.

Don’t consider the review a critique of the staff member’s duties. Instead, look at it as a routine checkup. Go in ready to talk, listen and recharge your relationship.


Setting the right atmosphere

Employee performance reviews are emotionally charged events. You can help reduce the tensions by choosing the right time, place, and surroundings:

The right place. Like any strategic planning meeting, hold your review in a private, neutral environment. A small conference room is ideal. If you can’t find a neutral room, use another manager’s office, preferably one with a casual seating area. Be sure that it is a private area where you can hold a one-on-one conversation with the team member.

The best time. Avoid meeting during busy or stressful times for the employee. Ask the employee if the time you’ve chosen is convenient, and be ready to change if he or she seems hesitant. Don’t squeeze in a review between two other meetings or before lunch. Try not to hold reviews on a Friday afternoon, especially if you plan to discuss serious performance problems.

Duration. Dedicate two uninterrupted hours to the discussion. You may not need the full period, but it’s better to schedule too much time than too little.

Atmosphere. Create an environment that supports discussion, cooperation, and negotiation. Place your paperwork near at hand, but not directly in front of you. You don’t want anything to distract you. If you must use your office for the review, come out from behind your desk.

Interruptions. Eliminate as many interruptions as possible. Hold calls or forward them to voice mail. Put a “Do not disturb” sign on the door.


Focus on results

Help the employee feel at ease from the outset. But don’t get caught up in small talk. False intimacy may increase the employee’s discomfort and destroy the meeting’s businesslike tone. By the same token, don’t make light of the review process or give the impression that you are just “going through the motions.” Emphasize that this meeting is important and you want it to be productive.

At the beginning, provide an overview of the points you want to discuss with the employee. Make it clear that you don’t expect to do all the talking.

Start by discussing any problems you’ve observed with the employee’s performance. Address each problem individually, cite specific examples and let the employee respond. Don’t bring up a new problem until you’ve thoroughly discussed the current one. Use the following framework to discuss each problem:

  • Describe the performance problem. Focus on the employee’s results and behavior in specific, nonjudgmental terms.

  • Reinforce performance standards. Your employee should already know the standards you expect, so don’t spend a lot of time discussing them. Review them quickly, then move on. If the employee challenges the validity of a standard, calmly state your reasons for requiring it, and gently steer the conversation back to the reasons the person didn’t comply. If necessary, refer to the employee’s job description to confirm the responsibilities associated with the position.

  • Develop a plan for improvement. Your review preparation should have included a plan for helping the employee improve performance. During the meeting, the employee may suggest additional solutions. Agree on a method for improving performance in the short run, and establish some options in case the first method proves ineffective.

  • Offer your help. Show your commitment by helping your staffer obtain training, resources, or other assistance to reach performance goals.

  • Alternate negative and positive comments. If you have a list of performance problems to address, be sure to insert some positive comments along the way.

  • Emphasize potential. Remind employees that they can apply their strengths to their weaknesses. For example, an employee whose reports are riddled with statistical errors may have successfully designed a complex computer model. The employee clearly is capable of producing accurate work, so point that out.

  • Set goals. Goal setting is an important part of a performance review. Even if an employee doesn’t need to focus on performance improvement, they should still have goals to aim for. These could be project-related, performance-related, training/development goals to acquire a new skill set, or something else.

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 CHOOSE YOUR LANGUAGE CAREFULLY

AVOID PHRASES IN THE EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION THAT CAN SABOTAGE JOB-REVIEW MEETINGS

The language you use can have a strong impact on how your message is received, regardless of intention. Here are a few things to keep in mind.


When you talk with employees about their performance reviews, beware of using common phrases that can unintentionally communicate the wrong message, or come across as too negative or personal.

Certain phrases can kill employee morale, weaken productivity or open up the organization to a discrimination lawsuit.

Your goal is to deliver reviews that help shape employees’ performance without becoming sidetracked by anger, emotion, or fear of conflict.


To do so, avoid the following phrases:

“You’re wrong.” If an employee tries to explain why his or her job rating should have been higher, don’t slap back with “You’re wrong.” That will only trigger anger and more confrontation. Instead, turn back to your documented facts of the employee’s performance and say, “I know you disagree, but I believe this evaluation accurately reflects your performance."

“What was your problem?” Don’t use the question as a way to ask why an employee had difficulty completing a project or task. Employees will bristle at such a statement. Instead, say, “What were the conditions from your perspective that made it difficult for you to complete the task?”

“You really did a great job but ...” Whatever comes after the “but” negates the preceding compliment. Make a point of using the word “and” instead. Don’t directly connect praise with constructive criticism. Instead, say, “And, you can do even better by making these improvements.” Then cite them specifically.

“I understand.” This phrase can excuse unacceptable performance or behavior by conveying empathy. Avoid it when possible.

“Your position here is solid so long as you keep up the good work.” You may intend such statements to encourage good performance, but they’re legally dangerous because they imply an employment contract that a court could find binding. That limits the organization’s ability ever to fire the person.

 PROVIDE FEEDBACK THAT ENGAGES

Accusatory language and close-ended statements turn performance reviews from productive conversations into simply formalized reprimanding. This is less likely to result in a productive outcome. Instead of focusing just on negative statements, use specifics and seek to dive into the root of the issue. This kind of constructive feedback presents the issue in an objective way and helps drive a positive change.

Here are 4 examples of how a negative statement or question can be rephrased.

Example 1

  • “Your work has been sloppy lately.” (Negative: too vague)

  • “Your last three reports contained an unacceptable number of statistical errors.” (Positive: cites specifics)

Example 2

  • “Don’t you bother to proofread anymore?” (Negative: accusatory tone)

  • “Is there a reason these errors are still occurring?” (Positive: gives the employee a chance to explain)

Example 3

  • “You’re obviously not a mathematician.” (Negative: focuses on the person, not on performance)

  • “I know you’re capable of producing more accurate work.” (Positive: reaffirms confidence in employee’s abilities)

Example 4

  • “Don’t let it happen again.” (Negative: blanket demands)

“How can we prevent errors like these from creeping into future reports?” (Positive: asks for feedback on improving performance)

 SAMPLE PERFORMANCE REVIEW

HERE’S ONE WAY TO APPROACH AND FORMAT A PERFORMANCE REVIEW.

Several employee performance software programs on the market today can make reviews less taxing and ensure that your written appraisals are consistent, comprehensive, and appropriate. However, such software is not necessary, simple templates can also be effective.

National Publishing Company

Performance Review


Employee Name:        David R. Jones

Job Title:                     Production Assistant

Department:             Production

Date of Review:        5/1/21
Date of Hire:              3/31/20
Reviewer Name:       Jane Smith
Reviewer Title:          Production Manager


PERFORMANCE ELEMENTS

Quantity

Dave regularly produces a normal amount of work, and he demonstrates a commitment to increasing productivity. However, it sometimes takes him longer than satisfactory to complete work and he too often misses deadlines. For example, in the last 3 months, he missed 3 project deadlines. Dave works more slowly than the position requires and he does not always achieve his established goals.

Needs Improvement

Quality

Dave displays a strong dedication and commitment to excellence. He works hard to improve quality in his own work and promotes quality awareness throughout the organization. The work he produces meets standards for accuracy and completeness. Dave applies the feedback he receives to improve his performance and he monitors his work to meet quality standards. Since his last review, Dave has reduced the number of errors in his work.

Meets job requirements

Job Knowledge 

Dave demonstrates significant expertise at his job because of his in-depth knowledge and skills. He is an exceptionally fast learner and able to quickly put new skills to use. 

He reads and researches extensively, staying on top of current developments that might impact his field. Dave displays a better than usual understanding of the interrelationship between his job and the jobs of others. He effectively uses the resources and tools available to him.

Exceeds job requirements

Problem Solving

Dave identifies most problem situations within appropriate time frames. His information gathering and analysis meet the requirements of his position. Most of the time, he develops several creative solutions to problems. He usually resolves or minimizes most problems before they grow into larger issues and he participates well in group problem-solving situations.

Meets job requirements

Communications 

Dave displays superior verbal skills, communicating clearly, concisely and in meaningful ways. He demonstrates outstanding written communications skills. He listens carefully, asks perceptive questions and quickly comprehends new or highly complex matters. Dave is extremely thorough and proactive about keeping others well-informed.

Outstanding

Planning & Organization

Dave plans ahead for additional resources. He sets measurable, realistic goals and objectives for himself. He works in an organized manner. 

However, Dave would be more effective if he prioritized and planned his work better. He could make more efficient use of his time through better planning and organization.  Also, Dave often has difficulty integrating changes into existing plans.

Needs improvement

Cooperation

Dave is consistently tactful and considerate in his relations with others. He displays an positive attitude and outlook and pleasant manner under even the most trying circumstances. He is always a team player and is the first to offer his assistance to his co-workers and he plays a highly proactive, participative role when working in group situations. 

Dave is particularly successful at establishing and maintaining good relationships. He takes an active role in resolving conflicts before they get out of hand.

Exceeds job requirements

Dependability 

Dave responds promptly and reliably to requests for service and assistance. His dedication to the job often exceeds normal expectations. He is usually punctual and he makes an effort to schedule time off in advance. 

Dave has little difficulty following instructions and responding to management directions. In most situations, he assumes responsibility for his own actions and outcomes. He generally keeps his commitments without delay or follow-up.

Meets job requirements

SUMMARY

Dave has been in this position since (insert date here), slightly more than (1) year(s). During that time, he has assumed most of the essential duties of the position and only needs support on some of the more complicated aspects. His focus on quality at times interferes with his ability to meet deadlines. With increased attention to timeliness, I expect that Dave will further improve by the next review.

PLANS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Be wary of taking on responsibilities that aren’t yours. Learn to better estimate how long tasks will take. Ask for help if competing demands become overwhelming. Prioritize demands and take them one at a time. Improve planning and organizing skills. Resist handling too many tasks simultaneously. Track precisely how you spend your time.

Employee Acknowledgment

I have reviewed this document and discussed the contents with my manager. My signature means I have been advised of my performance status and does not necessarily imply that I agree with the evaluation.

Employee Signature


Date


Reviewer Signature


Date


 PERFORMANCE REVIEW EXAMPLES BY CATEGORY

HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLE PERFORMANCE REVIEW PHRASES AND SAMPLE COPY FOR DIFFERENT SKILLS.

Communication Skills

Very good: Sue displays excellent communication skills. She keeps the entire project team up to date on changes and project status through the use of regular weekly emails and short team meetings. She is responds to clients quickly and handles any questions thoroughly.  
Acceptable: Sue does a good job with keeping the team informed, ensuring that most important information is communicated well. She is responsive to client calls and inquiries as well.
Needs Improvement: Sue could use some improvement with her communication skills. Updates on projects are not always received by the entire team. Additionally, while her interpersonal skills interacting with clients are good, at times it takes her a while to respond to client calls and emails.

Time Management

Very good: Ebony manages her time exceptionally well. She ensures tasks are completed on time, or ahead of schedule. If particular tasks may be delayed, she communicates with the team early so adjustments can be made. 
Acceptable: Ebony manages her time and projects relatively well, ensuring that most tasks are completed within the target timeframe. 
Needs Improvement: Ebony has missed several project deadlines recently without communicating any delays or concerns in advance. She

Punctuality

Very good: Steve is almost always on time for work. He is rarely late, and always calls ahead of time if he will be late for any reason.
Acceptable: Steve is usually on time. While he has been tardy on occasion, it is within acceptable margins.
Needs Improvement: Steve has been late to work several times over the last few months. Additionally, he only occasionally calls his manager to inform her when he is running late.

Professional Development

Very good: Justin has gone above and beyond in developing his skills this quarter. In September, he attended a social media marketing conference. In addition, he completed a Google Analytics certification course as part of his development plan.
Acceptable: Justin attend a social media marketing conference in September, meeting his professional development requirement for the quarter.
Needs Improvement: Justin fell behind on his professional development goals this quarter. He began a Google Analytics certification course and is 75% of the way through, but has not yet completed the course.

Quality of Work

Very good: Maria’s work quality has really excelled this quarter. She requires little supervision to produce quality work, and the number of errors found in the QA process is very low. 
Acceptable: Maria has done a good job this quarter producing good work. While she has some mistakes caught by QA still, the number of mistakes found is within an acceptable margin. 
Needs Improvement: While most of Maria’s work is of good quality, a number of her reports this quarter had several significant errors caught by QA. Maria should focus on reducing such mistakes going forward. 

 ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW TIPS

 USE PERFORMANCE LOGS TO SIMPLIFY WRITING EMPLOYEE REVIEWS

It happens to every manager: You sit down to prepare a staff member’s review and realize you only remember what the person has done the past few weeks. Or, you allow only a single incident (good or bad) to color your assessment.
If you’re relying solely on your memory to evaluate employee performance, you’re making appraisals far more difficult than necessary. That’s why it’s best to institute a simple recording system to document employee performance.
The most useful, easy-to-implement way is to create and maintain a log for each employee. Performance logs don’t need to be complicated or sophisticated. They can simply be paper files in a folder or computer files. Choose whatever means you’re comfortable with.
The key is to establish a system that you will use regularly. No matter how you take notes, make sure to keep them confidential.


Recording Performance
For each employee you supervise, the file should include a copy of the person’s job description, job application, and resume. Then follow these steps for recording performance:

1. Include positive and negative behaviors. Recording only negative incidents will unfairly bias your evaluation. Make a point to note instances of satisfactory or outstanding performance, too. One way to ensure balanced reporting is to update employee performance logs on a regular basis, instead of waiting for a specific incident to occur.

2. Date each entry. Details such as time, date, and day of the week help identify patterns that may indicate an underlying problem before it becomes more serious.

3. Write observations, not assumptions. In all log entries, be careful about the language you use. Performance logs can end up as evidence in a lawsuit. Your log comments should focus only on behavior that you directly observe. Don’t make assumptions about the reasons for the behavior or make judgments about an employee’s character. Keep out any comments that border on personal commentary or that show personal prejudice.

Many employee lawsuits can be quickly dismissed if performance logs can clearly demonstrate a history of performance problems leading to a firing.

4. Keep out biased language. A good rule of thumb: Any statement that would be inappropriate in conversation is also inappropriate in an employee log. That includes references to an employee’s age, sex, race, disability, marital status, religion, or sexual orientation. Don’t suggest reasons for employee actions or make connections between events without direct evidence.
For example, you may know that Dan’s wife recently filed for divorce, but don’t suggest in the log that his personal problems are the reason his work performance has slipped.

5. Be brief, but complete. Log entries should use specific examples rather than general comments. Instead of saying, “Megan’s work was excellent,” say, “Megan has reduced the number of data entry errors to fewer than one per 450 records.”

6. Track trends. If you begin to see patterns, make notes in the log or flag prior incidents of the same behavior. Bring your observations to the employee’s attention only after you’ve defined a specific problem.

 Performance logs: What to include and leave out 

Include:

Project assignments / deadlines met or not met
Your assessment of the quality of an
employee's work
Instances of tardiness, work absences or extended breaks
Disciplinary discussions and actions taken
Employee responses to problems and questions
Positive contributions to the work effort
Details of significant personal interactions with the employee

Don't Include:

Rumors or speculation about the employee's personal life
Theories about why the employee behaves a certain way
Information about the employee's family, ethnic background, beliefs, or medical history
Your opinions about the employee's career prospects 
Unsubstantiated complaints against the employee
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Here’s an example of what a few lines in an employee’s performance log might look like.

     HOW TO MEASURE AN EMPLOYEE’S ‘INTANGIBLE’ TRAITS

     MOST SUPERVISORS FIND INTANGIBLES THE MOST DIFFICULT FACTORS TO EVALUATE

    As part of the performance review process, supervisors are typically called upon to evaluate employees on the basis of intangible factors, such as cooperativeness, dependability and judgment. The higher up the organizational chart, the more important those traits become. Yet most supervisors find intangibles the most difficult factors to evaluate, probably because they seem so personal.

    Rather than assessing concrete behavior, you may feel as though you are evaluating someone’s personality or human merit. While intangible factors may seem personal, they’re important to maintaining effective working relationships and getting the job done.

    Match traits to the job
    One key to assessing an employee’s intangibles is to ask yourself which traits are vital for each job. Cooperativeness may be critical for a staffer working on a team, but not for a security guard working the night shift. Initiative would be key for a product development manager, but less so for a payroll clerk.


    Before performing an employee’s review, critically review the intangible factors included in the person’s performance standards. You should be able to comfortably answer the question: “Why is this employee rated on this measure?” 
    Remember, every performance measure should be rooted in a concrete operational goal of the organization.

     Employee evaluation form measuring intangible traits 

    As part of the performance-review process, supervisors can use the following questions to help quantify the intangible qualities of their employees.

    PLANNING

    1. Does the employee set verifiable short- and long-term goals?

    2. Are the employee's goals in tune with the company needs?

    3. Does the employee's planning show sound assumptions reflecting the company's goals and resources?

    4. Does the employee typically achieve the expected results?

    ORGANIZATION

    5. Is the employee aware of what is going on in his or her department, including who is doing what?

    6. Does the employee know what the department can do in an emergency?

    7. Does the employee do a good job of delegating work according to subordinate's abilities?

    INTELLIGENCE

    8. Does the employee see relationships between facts and draw appropriate conclusions quickly?

    9. Does the employee learn from experience?

    JUDGEMENT

    10. When confronted with an emergency, does the employee quickly recognize the most important priorities?

    11. Does the employee appreciate the financial implications of his or her decisions?

    12. Does he or she make decisions quickly, but not hastily?

    INITIATIVE

    13. Does the employee anticipate what has to be done?

    14. Does the employee perform well in the absence of superiors?

    15. Has the employee made original suggestions to improve operations?

    LEADERSHIP

    16. Does the employee explain rather than command?

    17. Do people listen closely when he or she speaks?

    18. Does the employee spell out the benefits of doing things his or her way?

    19. Does he or she deal smoothly with unexpected developments?

    Match traits to behavior

    You can’t help being subjective when evaluating intangible factors. But you can avoid bias by focusing on concrete examples of instances in which the employee displayed positive or negative behavior regarding a particular trait.

    Keep good documentation during the year, preferably by keeping an ongoing, simple performance log for each employee. It should track specific examples of the person’s positive and negative performance and behavior. Include notes on intangibles as you go.

    When it’s time to discuss intangibles during feedback or formal review, do your best to tie those traits to tangible examples of workplace wins and losses.

    For example, you might say, “I was pleased by your efforts to solve that customer’s problem last week. You defined the problem, considered possible causes, brought together a team and solved the issue quickly. Your actions demonstrated initiative and sound judgment; you didn’t try to do it all yourself. You took responsibility for solving the problem, but you knew when to ask for help.”

     4 steps to help employees reach their peak performance

    Define what you mean by high performance

    It sounds so easy: Expect high performance and you won’t be disappointed. Expect so-so performance and that’s what you’ll get. But reality is more difficult.

    To help your employees maximize their productivity, use these four practices to define what you mean by high performance and lay out how you expect your people to attain it:

    1. Involve them in setting goals. Never assume you’ve got buy-in. Rather than blindly dropping project goals, individual goals or the organization’s goals onto workers, approach them with the thought, “What do you think you can achieve?” Then negotiate your expectations.

    2. Keep the goals realistic. Any goal—whether it’s at work, at home or on the athletic field—needs to be difficult, desirable and doable. Setting goals too high will only deflate the worker; setting them too low will erase the challenge of work, which will turn off the person in its own way.

    3. Hit their buttons to make work “flow.” People have their own motivations; find out what they are to help them achieve positive “flow.” Examples: the will to win; enjoyment of teamwork or a higher mission, such as helping clients succeed. Express the overarching vision, and then let your people figure out how to make it happen.

    4. Avoid micromanaging. You may want to lay out every detail of how employees should achieve those goals, but resist the temptation. If you spend most of your managing time telling employees how to do their work, rather than trusting them to reach the clear goals you’ve set, you’re treading into micromanagement waters.

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     5 WARNING SIGNS IN AN EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION

    symptoms that warn of trouble in a supervisor’s appraisal process

    Job reviews shouldn’t be paper-moving programs that return zero value. Here are five symptoms that warn of trouble in a supervisor’s appraisal process, according to Joan Rennekamp, HR pro at the Denver law firm of Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons:


    1. Employees are unpleasantly surprised by the ratings. Performance appraisals shouldn’t contain surprises. They should be a summary of comments employees have already heard throughout the evaluation period. Unpleasant surprises indicate that supervisors are not being candid or communicative with employees.

    2. Ratings by one supervisor or department are uniformly excellent. Although it’s inappropriate to apply a “bell curve” to employees’ performance, it is also inappropriate to rate everyone at the same level.

    3. Great employees don’t receive great ratings. Look around at the employees who are the strongest. They should be receiving the best ratings. If not, your appraisal instruments aren’t rewarding what they should.

    4. Employees who are dismissed have recently received excellent appraisals. One purpose of performance reviews is to provide documentation for the organization in case a dismissal is necessary. When the performance appraisal doesn’t support a later decision, it can make it more difficult for the employer to defend its actions.

    5. Productivity generally goes down during appraisal time. The purpose of performance reviews is to increase productivity. Any process that’s not contributing to that goal should not be continued. If your system is not doing so, don’t hesitate to rate it as “unsatisfactory” and design a new one.

     WRITING EMPLOYEE REVIEWS

     STEER CLEAR OF TWO COMMON ERRORS

    Say you manage a 55-year-old employee whose productivity drops over the year. Instead of citing specific, measurable examples of this decline in his performance review, you note, “Kevin doesn’t seem to have the energy level anymore to truly succeed in this department.” Still, you rate Kevin’s work as “average,” the same as last year.

    That example highlights two of the more common—and legally dangerous— pitfalls in writing performance reviews:

    1. Evaluation of attitude, not performance. Vague statements that attack an employee’s demeanor could be interpreted as some kind of illegal age, race, gender or disability discrimination. Instead, supervisors should use concrete, job-based examples to illustrate any criticism. In the example above, referring to Kevin’s “energy level” could give him reason to complain about age discrimination. Instead, the review should have cited examples, such as “Kevin has completed three of the five major projects late this quarter and has not contributed one new product idea in six months.” For this reason, the word “attitude” should never appear in a review. Employment lawyers and courts often see that as a code word for discrimination.

    2. Evaluation inflation. Supervisors too often rate mediocre employees as competent; competent employees as above average; and above-average employees as superior. The problem comes when an employee is fired for poor performance yet his history of reviews tells a different story. The employee then has a supposed proof that the real reason for the firing was something else, maybe something illegal.

    Here are the main causes of evaluation inflation. Do any sound familiar to you?

    • Misinterpreting a rating scale or instructions. Example: Using a review with a 0-4 rating scale, a supervisor gives an employee a “2” in attendance and fires her. She sues, arguing that a “2” is average and acceptable, and wins. The supervisor wrongly believed that anything less than a “4” rating was unacceptable.

    • Fear of confronting employees. Example: A worker has acceptable work quality but hurts morale because of poor teamwork and pushiness. To avoid an angry confrontation, the boss rates the employee as average in soft skills.

    • Giving positive areas too much weight over negative ones. Example: You rate a factory worker on quality, quantity, dependability, teamwork and safety. Quality is poor, but you rate it average because of the “glow” from the other categories, all rated above average.

    Final tip: To determine if you inflate reviews, ask yourself the following questions: Who are my worst performers? Knowing what I know about them, would I hire them again? Do their reviews reflect their true performance?

     Case study: Liability time bombs in job reviews 

    Reviews should cite specific, well-documented examples of behaviors (pro and con). They shouldn't use vague terms, such as "bad attitude" or "lazy." Here are excerpts from actual federal government employee reviews that use funny, but legally explosive, language:

    "She has delusions of adequacy."
    "I wouldn't allow this employee to breed."
    "He would agree with a signpost."
    "When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."
    "He brings a lot of joy when he leaves the room."
    "If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered."

     INCORPORATING AN EMPLOYEE SELF-REVIEW

     shift the responsibility for initial evaluations back to your employees

    by Paul Falcone, author of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews.

    Drafting performance reviews is always a daunting task for supervisors, for many legitimate reasons: Judging others’ work often appears exceptionally perceptiondriven (vs. fact-driven), and providing honest feedback is potentially confrontational. Plus, if you overinflate grades, you create a record that may not withstand legal scrutiny if you later want to terminate or discipline the employee.

    In reality, it doesn’t need to be that way. One simple way to reinvent performance appraisals is to shift the responsibility for initial evaluations back to your employees.

    If you ask workers to grade themselves, you’ll find (more than likely) that they’re harder on themselves than you’d ever be! And this, more than any other exercise throughout the year, may place you and your supervisors in the roles of career mentors and coaches rather than unilateral decision-makers and disciplinarians.

    Logistics: It’s not simply about asking employees to complete a blank appraisal form. Instead, give them a separate self-evaluation form that allows them to recap their achievements, identify their shortcomings and initiate discussions regarding their future development. A basic self-evaluation form asks three core questions:

    1. “How do you feel you have performed throughout the review period?” You could likewise ask, “Why is our company a better place for your having worked here?” or “What have you specifically accomplished in terms of increasing revenue, decreasing expenses or saving time?”

    2. “Which performance areas do you wish to develop?” Or, “What can I, as your supervisor, do to help you in terms of providing you with increased structure, direction and feedback, to help you build your skills and strengthen your overall performance?”

    3. “What are your goals for the upcoming review period, and what are the measurable outcomes so that you’ll know that you’ve reached those goals?”

    If you’re hesitant about rolling this out because you’re afraid employees will rank themselves higher than supervisors would, remember that the employee selfreview form merely opens up an avenue for discussion.

    If you have an employee who feels he’s a stellar performer while you feel he’s a laggard, this exercise will allow you to discuss the differences in your perception:

    Say, “Sam, I see you graded yourself as a five out of five in the area of communication. Share with me why you feel the grade you’ve given yourself is warranted. Then tell me how you feel I might grade you in that area and why.”

    With such a simple tool in hand, you save time, allow your employees to motivate themselves and erode absolutely none of your power or control as a supervisor.

    And you may just find that everyone involved is empowered and invited to assume responsibility for his or her own career progression.


    Paul Falcone is an HR executive and the author of several best-selling books, including: 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems (2010) and 101 Tough Conversations to Have With Employees (2009) and 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance (2005). His informative presentation on hiring is available at http://www.BusinessManagementDaily.com.

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     CARROT OR STICK? MOTIVATING MANAGERS TO FINISH REVIEWS

     tips and a sample performance review

    Armed with these tips and a sample performance review, it should be a snap to get all your performance reviews completed, right? We hope so, but if not, here are some final suggestions from readers to inspire supervisors to complete reviews on time. Choose the right mix of carrots and/or sticks to fit your organization’s culture.

    The reward method. “We offered rewards (baseball tickets and an afternoon off) to the manager who completed his or her reviews first.” —Jennifer, California

    Tie to manager’s bonus. “I worked for a company where supervisors who did not submit their reviews by the announced deadline saw their bonuses decreased. Plus, it would go on their performance reviews.” —T.O., Texas

    Withhold manager’s raise. “If annual merit raises are handed out with appraisals, hold pay increases for managers who are late with their appraisals—and don’t give retroactive pay. Merit increases for the manager kicks in only after you have all the reviews.” — Sheila, Arizona

    Keep manager’s boss in the loop. “When requesting performance reviews from managers, ‘cc’ their boss (general manager, VP, president, CEO, etc.). That usually gets their attention.” —Elly, Pennsylvania

    Document & discipline. “If reviews are not completed on time, managers should know you will document it, just as they would for one of their employees who failed to do something in a timely manner.” —Jinnie, Minnesota

    Urge employees to speak up. “We encourage employees to schedule time with their managers during review time to help managers keep on track and to keep from saving the hardest reviews for the end.” —Sherry, California

    Hold their hands. “Many times, managers just need some basic phrases to get started. You can help them get over the hump by providing some specific sample phrases for each review category—and by forwarding them this free report. HR can also provide training or role-playing for managers on how to conduct the review meeting.” —Ruth, California

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