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Conducting performance appraisals
  • Employers should train managers on the process and expectations for conducting performance appraisals.

Those who need to perform employee performance appraisals may benefit from learning some of the pitfalls to avoid and how to handle certain situations. It may help to know about rater biases and what to do if an employee refuses to accept responsibility for performance.

At the very least, those who perform appraisals will need to know the process — who to appraise, what forms to use, what information to gather, when to perform the appraisal, and why the appraisal is being done in the first place.

From there, leadership can be taught how to rate employees, what to evaluate, and how to score. Additional training can include the following:

  • Maintaining open communication;
  • Documentation of the appraisal as well as the employee’s ongoing performance;
  • Appropriate places to hold the appraisal;
  • Listening skills; and
  • Coaching.

Employee performance appraisals can run the gamut from basic open communication between management and employees to formal processes. Whichever one is used should be truthful and based on facts. Information should be documented, but such documentation should refrain from including information that involves age, race, gender, or any other protected class.

A performance appraisal should:

  1. Include the date. A discussion with an employee regarding performance should include the full date, including month, day, and year. Consider also including the day of the week in any disciplinary warnings, which may help identify patterns.
  2. Count the good and the bad. A performance evaluation should not focus only on where the employee needs improvement. Even if the employee could best be described as “average,” the reviewer may be able to include some positives, such as pointing out that the employee has stopped interrupting others during staff meetings.
  3. Offer facts, not generalizations. List objective information or first-hand observations, but avoid making characterizations. For instance, state that the employee was observed chatting with coworkers on three occasions, but don’t describe the employee as a gossip.
  4. Beware of discrimination. As a continuation of the previous item, don’t make assumptions about the employee. Statements such as “Marsha’s lack of focus is somewhat understandable with two young children at home” could come back to haunt the company as evidence in a gender discrimination claim.
  5. Be short and sweet, but complete. When describing positive attributes, note the specific accomplishment. Rather than writing that someone is an exemplary employee, write that the employee finished all projects on time and under budget.