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.