Do you dread writing performance evaluations?


Often the boss, or evaluator, will see a performance evaluation as something that has to be done and since it’s no fun, they procrastinate. They see evaluations as something they do because they have to, instead of seeing them as something that can be helpful and productive.

If you dread writing performance evaluations 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. They will help you coach employees who are under-performing. They will help you achieve goals and expectations.  And, I promise, if you become skilled in doing evaluations well, you will find you actually look forward to them.

Where to start

When you are writing a performance evaluation, think about the goals you are trying to achieve. The best evaluations are those that result in meaningful discussion and a plan to move forward. 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 memo.

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

Give regular, informal feedback

Studies show that performance will increase up to 400% when you give informal and frequent positive feedback. That’s a mind blowing statistic. Have have regular, informal, check in sessions at least every week. Ask how it’s going, how you can help, and deal with issues or concerns as they arise.

No surprises

An annual performance evaluation is not a time for surprises, but a time to reflect on the year in a positive and helpful way. Make sure that when you sit down for a formal evaluation, everything you talk about is something you’ve already addressed.  Never bring up concerns that you haven’t already talked about.

Always begin with the positive

Start by talking about what has gone well and which expectations were met. I like to use the word “strengths”, as in “your strengths are”…. Have specific examples ready and focus on the successes, even if they are seem like small things.

Use peer feedback

Ask colleagues to share their comments with you about the employee you are evaluating. This will 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. I often add them as direct quotes right in the evaluation document.

Address the performance areas that need improvement

I like to use the work “stretches”. 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, have the courage to do that. Without a doubt, making your expectations clear will be the single most important part of the evaluation to see changes in future performance.

End with positive reinforcement

It’s important to end the conversation by emphasizing again what went well and that you are glad they are on your team.  Remember the amazing 400% stat? Be as encouraging and positive as you can be.  Think about how they will reflect on this experience and end it on a positive note.

Ask how you can help

Ask how you can help them be successful and what you can do more of or less of to aid in their overall success. Be open to hearing what they have to say. Don’t get defensive or responsive.  Just listen and say “thank you” for the input. This is an opportunity for you to get feedback and learn more about how to be a better supervisor.  Grab it!

Wrap it up

Review the document and ask if there is anything they would like worded differently before you produce the final evaluation. You have the final say in what goes into the evaluation, but it’s important to talk through semantics so that the tone is something you are both comfortable with.

Start the planning process for the next performance evaluation

Make sure you talk about your expectations, goals, and identify areas for 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  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit