Writing Performance Evaluations that Matter

by Betty Lochner on March 13, 2017

Azy ReadingOver the years as a subordinate and as a supervisor as all levels, I’ve learned that most performance evaluations are a better reflection of the person writing the evaluation than it is of the person being evaluated.

I’ve recieve formal and informal performance evaluations that I have read over and over because they either 1) upset me by the language used , the way it was written, and the focus on the negative; or 2) because it made me feel good about the work I was doing and my goals for the future.

Pretty radical extremes. The difference? How well the evaluator understood the goal of the evaluation and how well that was communicated.

Often the boss, aka the evaluator, will see a performance evaluation as something that has to be done – like eating something you don’t like because you were told to – rather than something that can highlight your role as a coach and mentor to help your employees be the best employees they can be.

Instead of dreding the process, think of it this way – a well written and communicated performance evaluation is one of the best tools you have to help employees work to their strengths and do their best work. They will  help you retain good employees and coach those that are under-performing.

Here’s where to start.

When you are writing a performance evaluation, think about the goals you are trying to achieve. Break out of the tendency to follow any rating system in place or a special format. If you are required to use a form, use it sparingly and attach a more comprehensive and meaningful memo. The best evaluations are those that result in meaningful discussion and a plan to move forward.

Here are some tips to make sure that the performance evaluations you give are meaningful and truly bring the best out of your staff.

  1. Start the evaluation process way before the actual evaluation. Make sure you are having regular coaching sessions to talk about expectations and how it’s going throughout the year. An annual performance evaluation is not a time for surprises, but a time to reflect on the year in a positive and helpful way. In the end, you get to decide how to write the evaluation, but it can be very empowering to an employee to make them a part of the process that is helpful to them, not just a reflection of you.
  2. Always start with sharing the positive – I like to call these strengths. Talk about what has gone well and which expectations were met.  Have examples ready and focus on the successes, even if they are small things like their reliability (getting to work on time), or their overall professionalism (being nice).
  3. Use peer comments. Ask colleagues to share comments about their interactions together.  The good and the not so good comments may give you some insight on patterns or behaviors you may want to address. And, it’s always nice to hear the good comments. Share those freely.
  4. Address stretches – those areas that need some improvement. Again, there should be no surprises.  This is an opportunity to talk about expectations that still need work and to lay out a plan for addressing them.  If you need to have a hard conversation with them, have the courage to do that.
  5. End with positive reinforcement. Re-emphasize what went well and that you are glad they are on your team.
  6. Ask how you can help make them even more successful. Be open to hearing what you can do more of or less of and how you can be a better manager.
  7. Ask if there is anything they would like worded differently or anything you missed before you produce the final evaluation.
  8. Start the planning process for the next evaluation – talk about expectations, goals, and professional development.

As supervisor, it’s your job to make your employees’ performance reviews as objective and unbiased as possible.  Take the time you need to be good supervisor and coach by writing performance evaluations that matter.


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transform your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift – all are available on Amazon.com.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit cornerstone-ct.com.

Share Button

© 2017 Cornerstone Coaching & Training. All Rights Reserved.