Poor Performance Appraisal Here are the tips to turn any negative feedback into positive

Poor Performance Appraisal? Here are the tips to turn any negative feedback into positive.

Last updated on 06th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog

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Many managers see the performance appraisal process as nothing more than an unnecessary corporate exercise forced upon them by human resource.

The performance appraisal process seeks to evaluate the performance of employees in relation to the projects that they have contributed and setting future performance expectations.

However, lately, the performance appraisal has been getting a lot of bad publicity. Almost 51% of employees believe that performance appraisals are inaccurate.

This raises a lot of questions about the effectiveness of the standard performance appraisal system.

A lot of these inefficiency issues arises from the fact that a lot of managers simply treat the performance appraisal as a box-ticking exercise.

Subsequently, appraisals are more complex than saying “good job” or “needs further improvement”. Such performance reviews only act as a time-consuming activity that can be skipped for the most’s benefit.Giving a good review is easy. But there are times when employees also need to be told about their shortcomings. Handling such situations effectively is crucial, or else it might end up hurting employee sentiments.

Here are some tips on how you can give negative feedback during performance reviews effectively:

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1. Ask Employees To Self-Evaluate :

Before delving deeper into the issues causing negative behavior, first try to understand what the employee thinks about the same. Ask your employees to complete a self-assessment before you meet with them. This will help you see how they perceive their own work and themselves. It will help you become aware of whether your thoughts align with their thoughts or not. And keeping that in mind, you can choose your responses accordingly.

For instance, if there are issues where there is contention, do not bring them up immediately. Start the conversation with the issues you share common grounds with.

2. Counteract Negative Feedback With Positive :

This is very crucial. If you have negative feedback for your employee, make sure you do not say it all out together. Stockpiling negative feedback can be disastrous. It can make the conversation filled with criticism and complaint and might make things uncomfortable. Make sure you highlight the positive things and place the negative within it very categorically so that it does not feel like a huge blow for the employee.

3. Be Objective :

It is very important to not get personal or use subjective bias while delivering a negative feedback. BE as objective and neutral in your approach as possible. Do not cite personal comments, judgments or observations during the conversation. State issues that relate to just the work and the performance of the employee. Do not use a chance to give negative feedback as a way to vent out your own worries and insecurities.

4. Listen Attentively :

Feedback is not a one-way street. It is a process where both parties need to be given a fair chance to communicate whatever it is that they are going through. If you are giving negative feedback, do not be the only one to speak. Listen attentively to what your employee has to say. Probe further on those points and understand what exactly is the problem. Effective feedback requires paying attention to the employee and being empathetic to the situation. Only then can feedback be genuine and can help change employee behavior towards something better.

5. Choose The Timing Carefully :

The timing for the feedback should be comfortable to both parties. Do not announce that there is going to be a spontaneous review. Make it convenient and schedule the meeting beforehand. The timing is crucial as delivering bad reviews is as difficult as receiving it. So make sure the timing does not clash with things your employee is already stressed about. Choose a calm spot for the meeting and make sure both you and the employee are well prepared for it.

6. Be Honest :

Your employees are not stupid. They know when something is genuine and when it’s not. If they figure out the feedback is false, they will lose faith in the entire system. It will not only diminish the value of what you say but also the way the entire organization views feedback. This is why you need to be honest, kind and sincere. Make sure you give examples to substantiate your points so that there is a tangible background to what you are saying.

7. Be Specific :

Negative feedback cannot be vague with ambiguous adjectives such as “not satisfactory,” “lack of creativity,” “not up to the mark” etc. The feedback needs to be very specific and substantiated with achievements, especially when it is negative.  Ambiguous feedback can be interpreted in a lot of ways. This is why you need to make your point very clearly so that there is no room for confusion. For example, you can say, “You did very well with the sales numbers last year. In fact, you were in the top 10%. But this year, you have not shown a similar success. The numbers have dropped by almost 30%. Is there any issue you are facing?.”

To gain the most out of a performance appraisal process a manager needs to dive in much deeper than the traditional performance appraisal process. Here’s how.

1. Establish performance standards by discussing potential

Employee appraisal processes are not just about monitoring employees’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s also more than about judging whether one is a good performer or what corrective actions to take to improve an employee’s performance.

The appraisal should also be about ensuring you have a positive attitude towards developing potential in your employees.

This involves two things:

  • Firstly, make sure you give your employees the opportunity to express what they want from their career development.
  • Secondly, watch out for potential in your employees that needs to be encouraged. Many a time they themselves might not see it yet. Motivating employees to perform at the optimum level requires them to see the potential in themselves.

Actionable Steps

  • During the performance appraisal, encourage employees to do a self-appraisal. Ask them to list out their own achievements and shortcomings. Very often, employees are aware of their own level of work. This will enable employees to become more self-aware.
  • Ahead of their appraisal meetings, ask employees what they want to bring forward or discuss.
  • During the appraisal meeting, discuss what the employee might like to work on in the future.

2. Choose your words wisely

Always place importance in phrasing your words during the appraisal process.

Richard Grote, the author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals, said that managers should opt for more actionable worded language instead of the overused “good” or “excellent”.

Additionally, Grote noted that words like “achieves”, “grasps”, “possesses”, “manages”, “exhibits”, “communicates” are far more powerful in getting your point across.

Here are five expressions which will help you highlight the performance of the employees:


When praising an employee try to incorporate phrases like:

  • “Possess a strong sense of responsibility towards…”
  • “Exhibits strong team playing characteristics…”
  • “Manages each of his/her assigned projects efficiently…”

Communication skills

Use phrases like:

  • “Easily communicates expectations”
  • “Excels in encouraging teamwork and group related activities”
  • “Possess the qualities to lead the team..”


Occasionally appreciating your employees’ creative side can make for a more inspired workforce. Try incorporating the following phrases during the appraisal process:

  • “Seeks creative routes to achieve desired results”
  • “Sought out new learning methods to increase their skill set..”
  • “Continuously tries to engage teammates to solve problems in a better way”


Employees like hearing that they are improving and that it’s being noticed.

  • “Manages to grow and improve with each passing day…”
  • “Is continuously looking to improve upon…”
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3. Frequently give feedback

The single momentous mistake that companies make is to conduct appraisals only once throughout the year.

Ideally, the performance review should not be the first time an employee hears that he is not performing up to the expected standards.

This is precisely why frequent feedback should be offered throughout the life cycle of an employee to ensure that you don’t take your employees off guard.

At Miami Children’s Hospital, employees meet with their leaders quarterly and have “mini-reviews” to document accomplishments and pave the way for the annual review, says Janet Lara-Vital, the hospital’s director of total rewards and wellness.

The reasons why the continuous process of feedback is so integral to the process of performance appraisal is because:

  • A continuous feedback culture frequently brings out the strengths and weaknesses of employees.
  • Subsequently, employees get a better idea about which areas to improve upon so that the performance appraisal process doesn’t come out as a complete surprise. Also, employees become much more accustomed to getting feedback from their managers and peers which makes them much more responsive during the actual appraisal meeting.
  • Additionally, you have a better chance of constructing a plan to address employees who aren’t performing up to their full potential.

Similarly, the performance appraisal process for good performers should have an entirely different strategy.

Such high performers are often sidelined during a performance appraisal process, where managers ignore the importance of getting recognized for a good job done.

This, in itself, is a missed opportunity to communicate how much the company places value to the performance traits of these star employees.

A continuous feedback process helps in regulating frequent recognition in the workplace. This, in turn, results in increased employee engagement and ultimately higher performance standards.

4. Train your managers to maximize the appraisal process

It is a well-known fact that managers aren’t too fond of the whole performance appraisal system.

However, any new management change requires the company’s managers to get on board with it.

The reality is most managers don’t know how to go on about optimizing the appraisal process.

Dick Grote, founder of Grote Consulting Corp. acknowledges that:

Performance appraisals have a huge impact on human happiness. A performance appraisal is the primary determinant of how much money I’m going to make or how far in the organization I’m going to get. Organizations need to take it seriously. The hard part is having the courage, to be honest about exactly how well a person has performed.

Here are a few focus points to cover during training managers to conduct a much more efficient appraisal process:

Downplay administrative details

While training managers, avoid the usual process of being an administration chore to do. Instead, promote the appraisal system as a necessary process to undertake to better the performance standards of the workforce and elevate the business goals.

Having difficult conversations

Hold regular meetings for managers to discuss the importance of learning to handle difficult conversations.

No manager will be likely to have a problem with a star employee. It is the underperforming employee that will bring about the complex conversations.

Gather managers around and have them go through live examples from role-playing or one to one interactions with their peers.

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Explaining the common mistakes during the performance appraisal process

One common mistake that managers tend to do is to have their own bias (either positive or negative) towards the employee being reviewed.

Other common mistakes that managers do:

  • Central Tendency: Rating every employee around an average. This defeats the whole purpose of having a rating system as well as the possibility of gathering useful data from it.
  • Recency Rating: Evaluating employees based on the events that happened in the last month or so instead of basing the review for the whole year.

5. Use survey tools to obtain important data

With the advent of automation in the workplace, survey tools have become the next big thing to make your life easier.

The use of survey tools in the performance appraisal process has resulted in systematic documentation and evaluation of an employee’s performance.

While face to face interactions seems to be the best option to conduct appraisals but the use of a survey tool does have some additional advantages.

For an appraisal to be actually effective, it must be “complete” in nature. That is, each appraisal process must account for not only the output from the employee but also of:

  • Highlight the training needed for optimal performance.
  • Self-evaluation as well as peer evaluation.
  • Evaluation of other factors affecting performance such as job satisfaction or motivation.

Whilst it might be difficult for managers to find the right questions to get workable data, a survey tool will act in accordance with your company’s objectives to provide the best appraisal process that your employees could wish for.

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