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Written Performance Appraisals: Components and Effective Examples

written by: N. Plowman•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/24/2011

Many managers dread annual performance review periods because they are unfamiliar with the appraisal process. This article identifies the value of performance, identifies what—and what not—to include, and provides effective examples of written performance appraisals.

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    Understanding the Value and Formats of Performance Appraisals

    Examples of Written Performance Appraisals Performance appraisals serve many purposes within an organization. They offer insight into an individual’s performance, and they provide a standardized way to make comparisons among employees for salary or promotional-based decisions. A collection of department examples of written performance appraisals also provides a company with information about its employees' strengths and weaknesses, which can then be translated into company-wide and department-specific development initiatives.

    There are many different types of performance appraisals – numerical or scale-based ratings, free-form comments, or a combination of both. Because performance appraisals can be very sensitive and are closely related to promotional and salary-based decisions, most companies utilize a format that contains numerical scores accompanied by supporting comments to justify or explain the chosen rating.

    Whether a manager has to write a completely free-form performance appraisal or draft many smaller statements to support different ratings, understanding how to write effective performance appraisals is critical to ensuring appraisals are valuable and representative of an employee’s performance. This article identifies what components can be included in performance appraisals and provides effective examples of written performance appraisals.

    Image Credit: morgueFile.com/mconnors

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    Required Components

    There are many facets to performance appraisals, and many components are company or department-specific. However, there are a few items that must be included in each performance appraisal, regardless of the company, department, or position. The following items represent those components that are required.

    • Employee name
    • Manager name (and reviewer name, if different)
    • Date of review
    • Review period (typically, a calendar or fiscal year)
    • Job title, level, or position
    • Review instructions and evaluation criteria
    • Overall rating (typically, exceeds expectations, meets expectations, and needs improvement)
    • General feedback on performance to support the overall rating
    • Two to three specific examples to support the overall rating
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    Recommended Components

    In addition to the required components listed above, there are many items that are highly recommended because they add tremendous value to the appraisal process. The following items are suggested components to any written performance appraisal.

    • Specific performance objectives based on the job description
    • Rating against each performance objective (typically, in the same numerical format as the overall rating)
    • Specific job results and activities being reviewed
    • Employee strengths and weaknesses
    • Employee training needs and opportunities
    • Suggested development goals (to be discussed and refined with the employee)
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    Optional Components

    As with all employee initiatives, there are some items that many companies would like to include, but there might not be enough time or resources. The following items are beneficial to any performance appraisal, but they are only optional.

    • Examples supporting each performance objective rating
    • Comments from peers and clients (360-degree performance appraisals)
    • Formal descriptions of the performance criteria being evaluated (to ensure standardization and equity)
    • Potential for and criteria used to award salary increases, performance bonuses, promotions, and other organizational rewards


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    Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Written Performance Appraisals

    Because performance appraisals are meant to be objective, fair, and valuable, the following items are to be avoided in written performance appraisals. Notice that none of these items are provided in the following examples of written performance appraisals.

    • Excessive criticism or negative words
    • Specific details on salary increases, promotions, or bonuses (Conversations about compensation and promotions should be separate from performance reviews.)
    • Threat of disciplinary action for poor performance or underachievement (This should be covered during compensation and career development discussions.)
    • Focusing on the most recent or memorable activities as the sole basis for review
    • Mentioning items that have not been previously discussed, either formally or verbally, with the employee
    • Providing general feedback that cannot be supported by examples
    • Placing emphasis on personality traits rather than productivity and results
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    Examples of Written Performance Appraisals

    The following examples are brief excerpts of written feedback provided to support performance appraisals. Notice that these are excerpts from a collective review; therefore, not all of the required or optional components mentioned on the previous page are displayed. Additionally, these samples are meant to serve as a basis for feedback, and they are not meant to be copied exactly for employees rated as exceeds expectations, meets expectations, or needs improvement.

    Exceeds Expectations

    John continuously exceeds manager expectations in the role of trainer. He effectively adapts to change, works well under pressure while maintaining a positive attitude, and has an exceptional ability to provide detail, which are especially critical to our department’s need to meet strict client deadlines and ever-changing demands. John goes beyond the call of duty by continually seeking out and following through with additional responsibilities and contributing frequently to department meetings. John is an active listener, managers his time well, and demonstrates exceptional professionalism and conscientiousness about quality of work. Although John works exceptionally well independently, he could benefit from additional team-building skills and experiences.

    Meets Expectations

    John meets manager expectations in the role of trainer. He adapts to ever-changing client demands and works effectively under pressure. John maintains a positive attitude and acute sense of detail, but often at the expense of effective time management. John demonstrates adequate communication skills and completes all requested tasks and required responsibilities. He is very considerate of other team members and works well independently or collaboratively. John shows great aptitude for leadership, but he doesn’t seek out additional professional development opportunities.

    Needs Improvements

    John does not meet the management expectations for a person in a trainer role. He does not adapt well to the changing nature of client-facing positions and cannot work well under pressure. This often results in the inability to remain positive and channel frustrations into a positive outcome. John is capable of effectively communicating with peers and clients, but he needs to improve the team-building and collaboration skills necessary to succeed in this position. I am encouraged by John’s drive for personal excellence, and I believe this energy can be transferred to a professional role with more training and experience in time management, active listening, and industry-specific knowledge.

Tips for Writing Performance Appraisals

This series covers the dreaded performance appraisal – loathed by employees and managers alike. Learn how you can make the performance appraisal process more effective, and also find alternatives to what many consider “a broken system.”
  1. Employee Performance Appraisal: A Free, Downloadable Form
  2. Written Performance Appraisals: Components and Effective Examples
  3. Searching for the Right Phrases to Use on Performance Appraisals?
  4. How Reliable Are 360 Degree Performance Appraisals?
  5. The Difference Between Performance Appraisal and Performance Management