Once every year most managers suffer the agony, or experience the
joy, of writing performance appraisals. Consider your own situation. Can you
imagine anything more bothersome? Can you imagine anything more satisfying?
Your answer, I suspect, depends on
the quality of the performance of the person you are evaluating, as well as on
the quality of your working relationship. Whatever your situation, whether
your task is to commend or to criticize, things may go better if you follow
these basic guidelines.
good notes on both accomplishments and shortcomings. The time to begin
gathering evidence of a job well done or examples of inadequate performance is
not when you sit down to write the appraisal. If you take detailed and
specific notes throughout the year, you’ll have a much easier time developing
and supporting your evaluation.
no surprises for the assessment. Your staff members will be more likely to
meet your expectations if they know throughout the year how you perceive their
performance. There is little point in withholding praise or criticism until the
as well as write. It’s good practice to meet with the person whose
performance you are evaluating, either before or after writing your assessment.
This enables both you and your employee to verify your perceptions and to
correct any misunderstandings. One approach is to use a draft of the appraisal
as the basis for your conversation. Any new information or inaccuracies that
are identified in the meeting can then be reflected in the final draft.
and end with the positive. People tend to be more open to criticism if you
lead off by recognizing their accomplishments and if you conclude by expressing
your confidence (or at least your hope) that they will perform successfully in
specific when calling for change. Describe any shortcomings in performance,
and specify how your employees need to improve or change. If appropriate,
identify the penalties for continued inadequate performance.
respectful when offering criticism. In How To Say It, Rosalie Maggio
offers advice on writing a letter of reprimand that is relevant here: “Your
goal . . . is not to get revenge or blow off steam – it is to effect a change in
employee behavior. The best way to do this is to be encouraging and
respectful. Avoid condemning, belittling, haranguing, preaching, scolding, or
staff members to respond in writing. Whether your employees agree or
disagree with your assessment, it’s only fair that they be given a chance to
enter an opinion into the record.
staff members to assess your performance as a manager. This may seem
bizarre to some (and threatening to others), but more and more managers are
making performance appraisals a two-way street. In “When Workers Rate the Boss”
(in the March 1993 issue of Training), Robert McGarvey and Scott Smith
offer an amusing anecdote: “After six straight box-office flops, movie mogul
Samuel Goldwyn knew he had a problem, but he didn’t know where. So he decided
to ask those who should know: his underlings. ‘I want you to tell me what’s
wrong with me and MGM,’ he ordered, ‘even if it means losing your job.’”
Now that you know how to go about preparing for and conducting a performance
appraisal, you’re ready to write. If your company does not provide you with a
standard format, you may find it helpful to organize your review under these
job duties (based on job description)
assignments and miscellaneous projects
and professional development
If you still have trouble writing
performance appraisals, remember your employee’s perspective: At the end
of a long, hard year, the most concrete measure of their contribution may be
your carefully compiled, thoughtfully composed record of their accomplishments –
that and a handsome raise.