(For Appraisals Recommending Termination, See “Dismissals”)
Summarize the employee’s performance at the outset. Then follow with specific strengths and weaknesses/needs. Either list recommended actions or efforts at improvements along with each weakness they are meant to correct, or separate them into a paragraph of “follow-up” action. Include details as you discuss individual strengths or weaknesses/needs.
Don’t use the “sandwich” technique of organization—that is, don’t sandwich a strength between two weaknesses or vice versa. This way, the reader finds it hard to “keep score” on overall performance. In either paragraph or list form, divide the strengths and weaknesses/needs so they all get maximum attention.
Don’t end statements of good performance with “but” clauses. Not: “Martha shows much skill in dealing with the public in person, but her telephone technique seems abrupt and abrasive.” You’ll notice the last clause detracts from or cancels out the first, positive statement.
Be specific about criteria for measuring.
Be specific rather than general about qualitative performance or improvements needed. Vague words often found on performance evaluation forms such as “poor,” “satisfactory,” or “excellent” report very little, give the employee no idea how to improve, and fail to reveal evaluation standards. If you must use a form for evaluation and must circle one-word judgments, elaborate elsewhere on the form or by attachment. State, for instance, the employee’s punctuality record shows tardies 20 percent of the time and if this is not cut to less than 2 percent, he can expect termination. That’s specific.
Avoid mentions of salary; salary should never be directly associated with the appraisal process. Someone who performs satisfactorily in all categories may be led to believe that every satisfactory or complimentary evaluation will lead to a merit increase. Performance-appraisal “hints” disappoint when such is not the case. Neither would you want to have to fabricate weaknesses as a justification for no salary increase.
Interpret your overall comments; don’t simply list strengths and weaknesses without making a judgment. Decide about the “status” of the employee and his progress: Do you recommend demotion? Reassignment? Is the employee performing at the level he is expected to maintain without future upward mobility? Should the employee remain in his present position for a longer time before taking on increased responsibility? Is the employee ready for increased responsibility now? Does he have significant potential for advancement, and should he be directed into broader responsibility as training for a management position? Remember the purpose of the appraisal process is to deal with future performance; thus, the content of the appraisal must focus on this satisfactory/unsatisfactory judgment and future courses of action/improvement.
Make sure the characteristics you judge are relevant to job performance. For example, don’t mention interpersonal skills if the job calls for little interaction with other people.
Evaluate on a representative sample of total job-effectiveness rather than on isolated situations that may happen to stand out in your mind.
Keep the tone nonthreatening. You should sound like a coach rather than a judge—unless, of course, you are recommending dismissal of the employee. Try to state weaknesses in a positive way, such as “improvements needed” or “developmental actions.”
Suggest ways to overcome weaknesses and provide for follow-up on the suggestions and improvements. Keep the words simple and clear; both the evaluator and the employee should be able to understand in concrete terms what and how to improve.
Get feedback from the employee before writing your appraisal so you can state her attitude about plans toward improvement or her lack of agreement and cooperation with your designed objectives and measurements.