Performance Appraisals: Preparing to Give and Receive

At their best, performance appraisals should be a two-way dialogue between the rater (often the supervisor) and the receiver (the employee). Here are some tips for both the giver and receiver of performance appraisal feedback.


  • Be prepared and anticipate possible responses. Ideally, you have been keeping notes over the year, so you can look objectively across a performance rating cycle to detect trends and patterns. Having multiple examples are useful, particularly if the employee disagrees with your assessment. If allowed, talk to others to calibrate your perceptions.
  • Acknowledge other factors that may have played a role in performance, and keep your focus on impact. Work failures are rarely just one person’s fault, and an employee may have many reasons to defer blame on others.  Focus on the specific role and impact that the employee had – on what that person could control – in preparing your feedback.
  • How you approach the start of the meeting is critical. Have a plan for the conversation, be on time, schedule enough time, minimize interruptions and distractions and have a box of tissues just in case. For discussions you anticipate being stressful, build in time before and after to prepare and reflect.
  • Even poor performers have strengths, and even top performers can stretch to new heights. No appraisal should be all good or all bad. Be clear in explaining the rating, but be sure that the employee hears both positive feedback and development paths forward. Be as specific and actionable as possible, so the receiver feels empowered at the end of the discussion.


  • Before the meeting, be objective in your assessment of your own strengths, weaknesses and development needs. Anticipating the meeting from the rater’s perspective will make you better prepared to receive feedback.
  • If you know that your performance was not stellar during this rating period, acknowledge it. Being honest and open about where you could have done better can move the dialogue forward to goals for the next year. Be prepared to ask for help or support if you need it.
  • If you are a high performer, come prepared to talk about the future – your ideas for new responsibilities, stretch assignments or training. The best performance appraisals include a look to the future.
  • Listen, listen and listen. Many employees long for more feedback about their work, and for some, the appraisal is the only time they get it in a formal way. Listen, ask questions, and then follow-up so that the conversation can continue after the meeting.

Both raters and receivers are vital partners in the performance appraisal discussion, and both players have the power to make it a richer conversation. Prepare, listen, and connect!