Employee Comments on Performance Reviews

Employee comments on performance reviews: be positive, forward-looking, non-accusatory, and concise. What to write when you disagree with a manager's observations...

Job performance review comments are tough to write.

It's gut-wrenching to figure out the appropriate thing to write when you disagree with some of your manager's comments in your written evaluation and want to stay in good standing.

The first thing to do is reread the review and do you best to remove all emotion as you read it.

Sharpen Your Axe Somewhere Else

How you choose to respond in employee comments on performance reviews is completely up to you, just remember things you put in writing tend to come back and haunt you when you least expect it.

First, consider if there are any valid points your manager has brought up that maybe you just have a hard time reading without getting defensive?

Those are phrases you should highlight or pull out as things to work on. If they bug you, they bug your supervisor too, so make an action plan to fix those areas.

Just be careful not to drone on with lengthy prose in. Keep your comments focused and concise, conveying that you understood the your manager's comments and what you intend to work toward during the next review period.

No one wants to read an entire page of attached employee comments on performance reviews.

Keep your commentary to less than a paragraph unless your company culture dictates much longer prose. Writing only one sentence has a similar effect, it makes anyone that reads it think you're not concerned with the company or your future within it.

Shoot for 3-5 sentences of a positive, thoughtful response; that's enough writing to show you care but not so much that people think you have an axe to grind.

Whining Is For Lifers Not Leaders

Now, I have no way of knowing what size company you work for or how many people are above your boss in the hierarchy.

But I can tell you that your boss has control over your reputation because they write your reviews and SMART goals and interact on a level up from where you're currently at, so it pays (literally) to handle employee comments on performance reviews professionally.

Whining on your employee evaluation forms is a career killer. I've written performance reviews for 10 years and have seen all sorts of employee comments on performance reviews.

Positive and Sincere

The best are review comments that are sincere but professional. You can state that you didn't understand something in your comments.

The minute it turns to whining about something being personal, you're promotability and, likely your next raise, just took a nose dive. Whine often enough and you'll either be a lifer in your position with cement boots on your promotability or eventually be shown the door.

The reason is not as cynical as you might think. It's that a large part of your performance boils down to intangibles like leadership and attitude. (Although human resources will tell you it's called behavior, not attitude.)

If you criticize your boss openly or your comments come across lacking perspective you will be labeled by everyone that reads your review.

You will be labeled unbeknownst to you of course, but it still happens. You will be labeled a whiner, immature, unprofessional or otherwise not ready for more responsibility.

In most organizations your boss has to submit all of their reviews with comments back to their own manager.

If employee comments on performance reviews come across as personal attacks or whining about trivial aspects of their jobs, the manager will be frowned upon by his/her own boss for not developing his/her team appropriately into strong leaders.

Career Rule: Let Them Save Face

If you've tried to think of how to respond in your review comments but are still struggling because you disagree with some section or commentary, then find a way to objectively bring attention to the area of disagreement.

You want to let your manager save face in your comments while pointing out a differing viewpoint.

No one will tell you this, but coming across professionally during disagreements is a vital skill in corporate America or anywhere you want to protect your long-term career interests.

The easiest way to do this in employee comments on performance reviews is to use words that imply confusion not flat out disagreement.

Example Review Comment when Disagreeing:

I'm confused about the comment regarding,
"xxx xxx xxxx." I thought I did a good job because
of my "xxx xxxx xxx" results. I will continue to make sure
what your boss said is handled appropriately and don't see this as a concern in the future.

"To A Great Extent, Your Boss Controls Your Personal Brand."
- David D'Alessandro in Career Warfare.

Professional NOT Personal

Responding professionally in your review comments means not making any personal comments or commentary that sounds like complaining. Be careful to not to deliver your thoughts in ways that make your boss look bad.

The best tactic is to tactfully point out areas you strongly disagree with but do not let on how strongly.

Just point them out as mentioned above then have conversations about them throughout the next review period and tell your boss stories about your work that illustrate your skills in that area without directly mentioning your review.

Getting Ahead Means NOT Striking Back

By the time your boss sits down to go over your review with you, it's too late to expect changes to be made. Oftentimes they have already had someone else in management proof the copy you've seen and will not make any changes. Your review comments are not the place to battle it out trying to prove your boss wrong.

This may be infuriating because you KNOW your boss is wrong, but think of it from another perspective. If you wanted to apply for another division within your company and the hiring manager read your review comments, how would you want them to think of you? That's how you write your comments.

You'd want them to think you were reasonable, professional and mature. If you strike back in review comments, whoever reads your comments later down the road is likely going to see you as immature and not ready for more responsibility.

"Unless you're running the show, you need to find a way to get your thoughts across in a manner palatable to those around you. Find ways to integrate their ideas and yours. Instead of taking sides, take stock of where they stand, where you stand, who stands to win, who stands to lose, and then try to choose a route that provides a reasonable amount of mutual gain."

-Kathleen Kelley Reardon, PhD in
The Secret Handshake.

Manage Up Proactively

So far if you've been paying attention you've noticed the ball is completely in your manager's court and you're probably wondering how you're supposed to convey your adamant disagreement with the review. Well, the answer is you're not. You express your confusion, not disagreement.

This gives your manager a chance to save face in thinking you're open to hearing their view of your performance and doesn't immediately put them on the defensive by planting your flag of frustration in writing. Being Pollyana isn't necessary, just be professional.

The best time to manage what your boss writes in your review is BEFORE your review is even written. Just as people underestimate the importance of time management, you also need to keep tabs on your manager's thoughts of your performance throughout the evaluation period by asking for feedback at least quarterly.

Write No Evil and Speak It Only Carefully

Even if you're on your way out from the company, there's no need to flag that in your review comments. If something happens and you don't get hired on right away to another company you'll still be blacklisted where you're at and your boss has the power to make your life a living hell.

It's better to be professional, positive and concise in your comments. If your boss is completely unfair or wretched, find another position working for someone else within your company or find another company to work for.

Expressing frustration in review comments only paints you as immature and conversations are ALWAYS better than documentation when you want to express your frustration with your boss' opinion.

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