Updated December 2023

Many of us are in the thick of year-end reviews. So if you see a colleague staring off into space at the coffeemaker, chances are good they're wondering what to say in a performance review they've got to write. Maybe you're wondering, too.

4 steps to write a good performance review

Whether you're assessing someone who works with you or yourself, here are four tips to write better performance reviews:

1. Ask HR to give you a few exemplary reviews or self-assessments and ask specifically what's good about them. Then you can use the models to craft your own assessments with less guesswork. If that's not doable, draft up a couple reviews and get feedback before you finalize them.

2. Consider what you want the reader to think, feel and do after perusing the review. First, consider the person being reviewed, then the people along the chain who will be reading it. What do you want them to think and feel about the employee and about you as the reviewer? Jotting this down gets your brain focused on choosing details that drive to these goals.

3. Don't just tell us what you think, give us the rationale for why you think it and include examples and data points that back that up. Too many reviews lack sufficient detail, which makes it hard for the reviewee to get much actionable insight from the process, and reflects poorly in you as the reviewer to those up the line. Go back to the think/feel/dos and choose anecdotes and metrics that compel those outcomes. Get more detail on the 3 kinds of details. 😉

4. Lean heavily on word choice, especially if you have to review multiple employees who have very similar jobs. As bored as you get writing the same words over and over, the folks up the line feel that across numerous departments. Some words you can't avoid repeating, so take advantage of opportunities to whip out the old Theasurus and punch things up a bit. This is an easy way to avoid HR and your boss feeling like you phoned it in. Learn how to avoid bias in your word choice.

The only strategy you need to write better reviews

To make this pre-writing (steps 2 and 3) faster and easier, use the Postion-Rationale-Proof Strategy(c).

The Position-Rationale-Proof Strategy from The Word Factory

Use this to quickly capture relevant information or identify places where you need to get some facts. You can even show this to your boss or HR for input before you start drafting. Download the PRP playbook for step-by-step instructions and tips.

Good luck!