A Manager’s Guide to Giving Proper Employee Performance Evaluations

Make no mistake about it, administering an Employee Performance Evaluation is never easy. While the process of assessing employee performance may seem intimidating at first, they do become easier the more a manager does them.

Employee performance evaluation

Performance, including productivity and morale, go up significantly when managers empower employees with the constructive criticism and positive feedback they need to strive to be the best they can be for the betterment of the company.

This guide will help all managers to learn and/or improve upon the skill sets that are needed to perform accurate and effective employee assessments with the utmost professionalism throughout their careers.

The Beginnings of Modern Performance Management Principals

Performance management, as defined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, empowers employees of a company in improving all aspects that relate to the organization meeting its goals. The process of performance management is the driving force behind organizational effectiveness and involves several facets including:

  • Work scheduling and laying out performance expectations.
  • Monitoring and evaluating performance regularly.
  • Educating workers on how to perform at their best.
  • Incentivizing good performance and discouraging the bad.

Federal legislation regarding performance management was first laid out in the 19th century when the Pendleton Act was passed. The bill was initially passed to eliminate favoritism in the hiring process of government employees that was a real problem at the time.

Since then, several other acts have been passed including those related to creating appraisal systems, and legislation recognizing the correlation between exceptional performance and the need to reward that behavior with increased pay.

Moving forward into middle of the 20th century, Peter Drucker changed employee management forever by outlining the idea of management by objectives (MBO) in his book “The Practice of Management.”

In the book, Drucker insisted that managers need to be active in leading their team toward achieving a company’s goals via firm objectives, as opposed to merely overseeing the completion of isolated tasks. Drucker felt that managers of the time often got trapped into the completion of “activities” while ignoring how those tasks factored into moving the company toward long-term objectives.

Later, in the 1970s, Aubrey Daniels, a clinical psychologist, added to Drucker’s performance management objectives with the idea that managers should also place a major focus on finding ways for employees to actually enjoy the tasks and goals they were charged with.

Each of these theories has a firm place in history, and are used in all successful modern performance management practices.

Benefits of Performance Evaluations

There are many benefits offered when performance evaluations are used as a tool to better employee outcomes. Here are a few of the more important ones:

  • Offering a formal environment for managers to meet with their employees and discuss how that employee is or is not meeting their required performance objectives.
  • Creating a formal record of an employee’s performance over a set time to accurately gauge their ability to improve.
  • Performance evaluations provide employees with the motivation they need to constantly improve; particularly when supported by regular pay raises and offering other incentives worth striving for.
  • Allowing employees the opportunity to ask managers questions related to their performance and goals within the company, and offer feedback related to theirs, their managers, and their coworker’s performance.
  • Performance evaluations provide a forum for developing a plan for the upcoming year.

All of these benefits and more provide a formal environment for managers and their employees to get together and discuss ways that each can better do their job, to move the organization closer to their long term objectives.

Tips to Improve the Performance Evaluations You Give

Managers should follow these 5 indispensable tips to improve their ability to give employees the most constructive and highly productive performance evaluations.

Better employee performance evaluation

1. Offer consistent feedback, in addition to formal evaluations.

It isn’t enough to offer feedback and tips to employees at scheduled “formal” intervals. Employees need constructive feedback and approval on a consistent basis.

Waiting months at a time between evaluation sessions to hear they’re not meeting expectations, and/or to hear how beneficial the work they do is to the company is a recipe for poor job satisfaction.

Such an inconsistent practice doesn’t help the company as a whole either.

2. Encourage employees to analyze their own performance leading into formal evaluations.

Encourage employees to evaluate themselves prior to formal performance evaluations. Get them to write their own thoughts down and bring them into the meeting, so managers and employees can each discuss their thoughts together.

Doing evaluations this way, the employee is empowered, and any critical points that management might have to share will be less of a blow (less likely to feel confrontational).

Employees who’re encouraged in this way will tend to set loftier goals and achieve them as self reflection becomes more of a habit from one evaluation to the next.

3. Be reasonable when setting performance goals with employees.

Setting unreasonable goals is a mistake many new managers make. The thinking is that if you encourage them to reach for the stars, they’ll at the very least achieve the objectives you need from them.

Instead, concentrate on setting reasonable expectations, within achievable time frames. High employee morale levels are best accomplished in this way.

4. Take notes about individual employees throughout.

One of the toughest parts of doing employee evaluations is the need to reflect on what the employee has done in the months since their prior evaluations. This can create a number of problems including performance evaluations being poorly written, inaccurate, and unhelpful to the employee.

Keep notes about their achievements, attention to detail, timeliness, and any other information related to performance issues. This way, managers can look back at evaluation time and come up with the most constructive employee assessment possible.

5. Collate feedback from other managers and subordinates.

A fair performance review involves bringing together data from other managers and subordinates working under the employee being evaluated. Doing evaluations this way ensures the employee is getting more of an unbiased all-encompassing picture of their overall performance in the company, as opposed to just one manager’s observations and opinions.

Though it might seem at first like you’re fostering an environment of distrust, as Mike Steinerd of Entrepreneur puts it: “This not only ensures that more than one point of view is considered, but will also help foster an environment of teamwork and trust.”

Useful Performance Evaluation Phrases and Sentences

Giving written feedback can be very difficult for even the best managers/linguists. Many managers struggle with putting their thoughts to paper in the most accurate and professional way possible, so the employee understands exactly what has been observed and what’s expected moving forward.

Constructive employee performance evaluations

Following are some useful phrases that can be used in delivering positive feedback and constructive criticism:

Positive Attributes

  • Works well under pressure and excels at sticking to deadlines.
  • Effectively communicates his/her point of view and expectations.
  • Is highly professional and courteous with coworkers and clients.
  • Works well under limited supervision.
  • Accomplishes optimal levels of performance with great sincerity in areas. such as: A, B, C…
  • Accepts responsibility willingly.
  • Takes criticism well and learns from mistakes.
  • Consistently goes above and beyond what’s expected of them.

Performance Improvement

  • Needs more training in: X, Y, Z.
  • Has trouble acting on feedback given by managers.
  • Employee has been written up for being late “X” times.
  • Has trouble with time management skills.
  • Seems unmotivated when doing “X” and “Y”.


  • Exhibits leadership qualities that will help them advance in the company.
  • Employee has exceptional skills/abilities in the following areas: A, B, C…
  • Has several skills that are currently not being used in their current role.

It’s important to make feedback as accurate and impactful as possible, leaving little room for ambiguity. This is important not just for the pending performance evaluation, but also for future reviews that might be completed by a different manager who could potentially misconstrue previous documentation in a way that negatively impacts the employee.

Performance Evaluations Essential for Effective Management

No manager can be successful at leading a team without effective performance evaluation skills.

The online bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Findlay teaches business students all the skills they’ll need to be successful in the industries they choose to work in throughout their careers.

Four individualized business management strands are available, allowing students to customize their education to specific career goals.


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