Employee Review and Appraisal Comments

18 Examples of What Not to Write

Have you ever had a comment like one of these made about you on your employee review?

  • “An invaluable member of the team.”
  • “Exceeds expectations.”
  • “Happy and cheerful while interacting with colleagues and managers.”
  • “A great listener.”
  • “Thinks about the happiness of colleagues.”
  • “A real team player.”
  • “Seeks opportunities to improve learning.”
  • “Passionate about working at this company.”
  • “Demonstrates a can-do attitude.”
  • “A complete professional in her field.”
  • “Always eager to help.”
  • “Strives to work well with every colleague.”
  • “Extremely gifted and talented.”

You may think these comments sound helpful, or at least professional. The truth is, they’re awful. Ditto with these negative comments:

  • “Has developed an atmosphere that does not promote innovation.”
  • “Always misses deadlines and is constantly behind on his objectives.”
  • “Always leaves everything to the last minute instead of working to a plan.”
  • “Communication is an area that must improve this year.”
  • “Should improve his time management.”
  • “Refuses to implement training and almost always goes back to his old habits.”

Some Closing Tips

  1. Before you write anything about an employee, ask yourself: “What is it that I want to accomplish by writing this? What new outcome do I want?”
  2. Instead of a box on your performance review form labelled “Comments,” call it “Results,” “What happened,” or “Achievements.”
  3. Know what the forms in your organization are for. Some managers treat them like records to be used in a criminal trial. Their real purpose is to reinforce good performance and to correct poor performance.
  4. When working with an employee who is having or causing problems, I often ask to see his or her performance review forms. I’m looking for trends:  Is this is a sudden aberration or a long-running downward spiral? Is there any evidence that a manager has tried to help this person? Well-written performance review forms will always make this clear and evident.
  5. Deal with employee issues immediately. Keep accurate, factual records of the employee’s actions and outcomes, and keep thorough records of the steps you’ve taken to remedy the issues. If problems escalate, doing that could save your skin. But more importantly, it’s an effective way to get employees back on track to performing well.

The Deadly Self-Appraisal Form and How to Fill It In

How to make the most of your appraisal or performance review

Your System

Check how the appraisal system or performance review works in your organisation. Often these things will have been updated with new forms and new ways of doing things since you last used them.

Pay particular attention to

  • What the paperwork involves – the appraisal comments you will need to make
  • Where it goes
  • Who needs to fill in what
  • Any performance rating system you have

Appraisal form answers and answering questions in ‘self-appraisal forms’

Sometimes the questions on these forms are really hard to answer. In the first one I ever had to fill in myself was a statement asking you to:

‘List your three worst failures in the past 6 months.’

My colleagues and I wasted hours trying to think of ways to answer this without incriminating ourselves.

If you have something like this, stick to the facts and just say what you did. It may well be followed with a question asking you what you’ve learned from the experience or what you would do next time. Even if there isn’t one of these questions, make sure you have the answers ready for the appraisal itself.

Here are some real appraisal form questions with tips for answering them:

Has the past year been good/bad/satisfactory or otherwise for you, and why?

This can be very difficult to answer if you are the kind of person who tends to hide their light under a bushel. Even if you find it easy to tell others how wonderful you are, be wary of answering this question. It’s best to stick to the facts, rather than give opinions like ‘Quite well’ or ‘Fantastic’. Use the examples you have gathered.

What do you consider to be your most important achievements of the past year?

Think about what is most important for your organization and where you have contributed the most to the organisational goals. Use examples and facts.

What do you like and dislike about working for this organisation?

No need to tell you to be careful here! However, if this question is genuine and your manager really cares, this could be a useful opportunity. It would be easy to sound negative in an answer to this question. So instead of risking that, phrase your concerns as suggestions.

What elements of your job do you find most difficult?

Again, stick to the facts. It might be good to phrase answers in terms of what development or training you would like.

What elements of your job interest you the most, and least?

Stick to the facts when you describe these elements, especially the ones you like the least. Say ‘The job involves repeating the same task 153 times a day’ rather than ‘The job is boring’

Or ‘I find communicating with the purchasing department takes up two days each week and would rather spend that time working in the lab’ rather than

‘I hate dealing with the idiots in purchasing’

What action could be taken to improve your performance in your current position by you, and your boss?

A useful phrase here might be:

‘It would be helpful if my manager could….’

‘I would like to develop my skills in YYY… so that I can XXXX’

Stick to suggestions rather than complaints.

What kind of work or job would you like to be doing in one/two/five years time?

Many people find this very difficult to answer. Especially if they are quite happy in their work and have no ambitions to progress or are near retirement. In this case it’s OK to put that you enjoy your current role. You might want to say that you look forward to new developments in that role if it’s appropriate.

What sort of training/experiences would benefit you in the next year? Not just job-skills – also your natural strengths and personal passions you’d like to develop – you and your work can benefit from these.

Think about what you need to be able to do in your job over the next year and identify some training or other kind of development

Score your own capability or knowledge in the following areas in terms of your current role requirements (1- 3 = poor, 4-6 = satisfactory, 7-9 = good, 10 = excellent). If appropriate bring evidence with you to the appraisal to support your assessment.  The second section can be used if working towards new role requirements.

These kinds of questions can be very hard to answer. Make sure you have clear definitions of all the skills and behaviours on any list. Also get hold of the standards expected for your role. Then ask your colleagues to help you if you are not sure.

To get help with appraisal training contact us.

To your continued success