Performance Appraisal – What do I write on the form?

Writing Performance Appraisal Forms

Performance ObjectivesDo you hate writing performance appraisal forms? Are you often stuck for something to say? Do you find yourself writing the same (sometime pretty meaningless ) comments again and again? You’re not alone!

Of all the (many) things that annoy, frustrates and irritates the managers I work with about performance appraisal what to write on the comes top

Here’s how to make writing the performance appraisal form much, much easier

Performance Appraisal – The basics

Of course, if you agree clear objectives at the beginning of the performance appraisal period, if you (and your employees) monitor performance against those objectives on an ongoing basis and if you hold regular performance review meetings, then writing the appraisal form is relatively easy. It’s then simply a summary of the review meeting discussions written in clear, evidenced – based, objective language.

Say what?

Ok, let’s break that last statement down a little

Effective performance appraisal comments and how to write them

The key to writing appraisal comments that are both useful to the employee and useful to the business is:


I could bore for England on the subject of clarity (and regularly do). Suffice to say your ability to explain clearly and concisely what the employee has done (or not done) in the appraisal period which has been particularly effective (or not) is crucial.

Did you notice the word ‘done’? When we are appraising performance we are appraising what the employee has done to meet their objectives and, subsequently, contribute to the success of the business or organisation. So we need to write about actions, which means our comments will be…


In the same way that verbal feedback is only effective when we can provide samples and examples (i.e. ‘evidence’) comments on the appraisal form are the same.

‘Overall a good effort’ and ‘Takes pride in her work are not evidenced-based examples. Which means they are not …


Nothing, but nothing, upsets employees more than ‘gut reaction’ or ‘feelings based’ comments on an appraisal form. Comments that you, the manager, cannot show are objective and subsequently fair. Making evidence-based comments ensures objectivity. If you cannot provide evidence for a comment you make, then don’t use it.

‘Always willing to go the extra mile’ and ‘Needs to adopt a more positive attitude’ are not objective comments – they are your opinion and unless you have evidence to support your opinion you’re asking for trouble (or, at the least, a very frustrated or confused employee)

An Example Performance Appraisal Form Comment

Let’s take a look at an example. You want to make a comment about how the employee has adapted to a recent change

You could say ‘Adapts well to change’. The problem?

This is one of those essentially meaningless statements. What does ‘adapts well’ actually mean?

Instead you could write:

Demonstrated an ability to adapt to change (e.g. the AYZ Implementation Project) by

  • Seeking the information needed in order to understand the AYZ implementation
  • Planning to incorporate the new working methods into his  working practices
  • Actively seeking to experiment with the new working methods
  • Evaluating the new methods and giving feedback on his evaluation
  • Taking action to overcome any difficulties implementing the new methods
  • Helping others to understand and apply the changes</i>

Or, if you want a shorter version, something like

Demonstrated the ability to adapt to change (AYZ Project) by; seeking information, planning, experimenting, evaluating, giving feedback, taking action to overcome difficulties and helping others

Do you see the difference?

Summary – Why what we write on appraisal forms is so important

What we write on performance appraisal forms really matters to our employees. They want and need to see detailed, unbiased, fair comments that accurately describe their performance during the appraisal period. If you use clear, evidence-based, objective language you will both meet those employee needs and provide accurate information for the business

The easiest way to write clear, evidence-based, objective appraisal comments is to agree clear, evidence-based, performance objectives! (read more at What Are Performance Objectives) BUT even if you haven’t agreed those objectives prior to undertaking your appraisal meeting you can still use detailed performance objectives to write your comments. You simply select from the objectives the behaviours that the employee has demonstrated in the period you are appraising and use those descriptions to write your comments (in case you didn’t notice the descriptions above on ‘adapting to change’ are performance objectives!)

Would you like to learn – in just 10 minutes – how to run motivational performance appraisal meetings?

performance appraisalThen why not take a look at my Kindle book ‘A step-by-step guide to running performance appraisal meetings that that motivate your staff to higher performance and higher job satisfaction’

This guide was easy to read, well structured and easy to follow… I particularly liked: the emphasis on motivation; the inclusion of job satisfaction ( not something I had come across as a specific appraisal topic before); the approach of drawing in the staff member to the whole process ( making them prepare and getting them to give their views first); the idea of sharing performance feedback and that the manager should be prepared to change their mind on whether objectives have been met in the light of information given by the member of staff.

You can check it out on Amazon (and try a sample) HERE


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