Avoid Uncomfortable HR Followups: Performance Appraisal Comments that Work

Don't throw out the handbook just yet. Using performance evaluation comments to motivate staff

by Rod Dunne on July 22, 2011

in Creative, Human Side

The care necessary with every word spoken in today’s corporate culture can be quite cumbersome to managers.  Managers often feel like they are skirting issues to avoid offending team members (lack of productivity, the needs to improve sales performance levels, etc.).

The truth is, with the right skill set, you can provide honest feedback without landing in HR for being offensive or upsetting a team member.

And the major area where you can employ these tactics is within performance review comments.


Let us take a look at some actual sample performance review comments and sample performance review situations.

How to be clear with your under-performing employees

Suzie has been with the company three years and her production has begun to drop.  Take a look at the sample performance review comments for Suzie below.  Which of these performance reviews examples is the best choice in your opinion?

  1. Suzie is a poor performer who needs to get with the program.
  2. Suzie used to be a great employee, but something happened this year and she has dropped her production.
  3. Suzie brings several years experience to the department and provides quality work.  A goal for Suzie is to bring her production numbers back up.

The best choice among these sample performance review comments would be (3).  It is professional, does not attack Suzie, begins with a positive, and states a constructive goal for Suzie.

My post detailing examples of performance reviews for time management issues goes into more detail regarding raising concerns about attendance, poor timekeeping, unproductive workers, etc.

These problems may also help highlight issues in your own operational procedures. For example there may be a lack of good quality task or work proposal template structures that can be used by employees as the blueprint for their own work. Such operational documentation can benefit new joiners to teams as well.

You can always use a sample phrase in appraisals but just be sure to customize it for the context, the employee and the message you want to get across.

Let us look at some more sample performance reviews.

How your performance review comments should use a positive edge to motivate

Ken is one of the top producers.  He learns quickly and brings good ideas and solutions to management.  However, he is abrupt and rubs other employees the wrong way, creating a negative team environment.  Which of the following sample performance review comments is the best choice in your opinion?

  1. Ken is great on his own, but needs to learn to interact well with others.
  2. Ken is a top producer and leadership relies on him to identify issues and solutions.  Leadership would like Ken to continue developing positive working relationship with other team members.  Ken’s insight into issues increases in value when he works with other team members to resolve situations.
  3. Ken is a top performer, and always brings great ideas to the table.  However, he is a negative influence on other team members and he should work on interpersonal communication skills.

The best possible choice out of these examples for this situation is (2).  Leaders should never use words with negative connotation in a review, and should always explain why certain areas should be improved.

Reading sample performance review comments and working to ensure any evaluations written contain positive, business related praise and opportunities for improvement will save you a great deal of time, and maybe even a trip to HR!

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Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on Product-ivity.com. This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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