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Employee Appraisal Phrases: Performance Levels and Setting Priorities

Accurately describing an employee's abilities to maintain performance levels and set priorities helps the employee to shape goals after the appraisal process is complete. Conducting an employee appraisal means using the right phrasing to delineate levels of the employee's abilities, whether they excel or need improvement.

In order for the written feedback on your evaluations to have a long-lasting impact, you need to focus on the individual performance factors that determine the quality and quantity of your employees’ work, such as performance levels and setting priorities. The best strategy is to include targeted phrases that energize an employee to keep up the good work in key areas, while also encouraging employees to focus more carefully on the quality and quantity of their work where needed.

Performance levels

Exceptional: Consistently exceeds expectations

  • Finds the most effective ways to get the job done

  • Creates new strategies to improve performance

  • Improves the performance of others

  • Focuses abundant energy and effort on the job

  • Targets efforts for maximum results, and then achieves them

  • Is motivated to perform at a superior level

  • Maintains the highest personal performance standards

  • Is clearly superior in every measurable area of performance

  • Expects and attains outstanding results

  • Serves as a highly positive role model in all performance areas

  • Took a virtually impossible assignment and turned it into a major winner

  • Set a new high-water mark on the XYZ project

  • Grabs the brass ring on every project

  • Dazzles senior management

Excellent: Frequently exceeds expectations

  • Comes to work ready to excel

  • Sets high personal performance expectations

  • Relentlessly pursues outstanding outcomes

  • Expects more and gets it

  • Refuses to settle for status-quo performance

  • Does not know the word average

  • Is energized by the prospect of achieving challenging goals

  • Prioritizes work for maximum results

  • Has a compelling “can-do” attitude

  • Is undaunted by difficult challenges, tough obstacles, or frustrating events

  • Plans to succeed and does so

  • Bounces back from setbacks

  • Is frequently mentioned by name whenever the topic of outstanding performance comes up

  • Keeps pushing until the desired outcomes are achieved

  • Jump-starts stalled projects

  • Takes great pride not only in meeting goals but in surpassing them

Fully competent: Meets expectations

  • Is open to new strategies to improve results

  • Has visibly improved her performance levels

  • Is steadily upgrading every performance area

  • Actively seeks strategies to improve performance

  • Can be counted on for solid performance

  • Focuses his priorities on maximum effectiveness and success

  • Maintains focus on the main event

  • Takes feedback to heart and strives to improve

  • Focuses on work, not on the clock

  • Is a stable and consistent performer

  • Is very interested in suggestions to build performance

  • Effectively focuses her energy on the job

Marginal: Occasionally fails to meet expectations

  • Is satisfied with his current performance, despite the fact that it isn’t satisfactory

  • Prefers to slip under the bar instead of leaping over it

  • Can be sidetracked by minor obstacles and challenges

  • Is tolerant of mediocre performance

  • Regards performance measures as unfair

  • Has an inflated view of her own work

  • Insists that improvements in performance are coming soon

  • Feels that others are intentionally trying to make him look bad

  • Spends more time as a spectator than as a participant

  • Comes up short on long-term projects

  • Spends time on low-priority projects

  • Is primarily interested in things that have little to do with work

  • Is rarely around when it’s time for heavy lifting

  • Does C-level work on A-level projects

  • Misunderstands the priorities of the job

Unsatisfactory: Consistently fails to meet expectations

  • Attributes performance problems to other people or circumstances

  • Fails to take responsibility for her failures

  • Has received complaints from customers

  • Has received complaints from management

  • Has displayed performance levels that have been declining

  • Talks the performance talk, but does not walk the walk

  • Has fallen into a habit of questionable performance

  • Spends more time socializing than working

  • Shows little interest or motivation in upgrading performance

  • Doesn’t pay enough attention to the work that needs to be done

  • Expects others to carry the load

  • Regards goals as suggestions

  • Always seeks the easy way out

  • Is unwilling to accept feedback and guidance

  • Steps back when it’s time to step up

Setting priorities

Exceptional: Consistently exceeds expectations

  • Understands and resolves A-level matters before B-level and C-level matters

  • Uses sound judgment and insights when rank-ordering projects

  • Serves as a valuable resource to determine the role and priority of totally different tasks

  • Always knows which projects belong at the top of the list and which belong at the bottom

  • Easily and quickly singles out low-priority tasks

  • Clarifies priorities for employees at any job level

  • Prevents others from pursuing minor projects that superficially appear to be important

  • Quickly and accurately calibrates project priorities

Excellent: Frequently exceeds expectations

  • Is keenly aware of the subtleties that make one project more important than another

  • Places work priorities over personal priorities

  • Adapts his workload and priorities to meet workplace demands

  • Breaks projects into logical pieces to make sure that top priorities are handled first

  • Is able to set priorities when under great pressure

  • Tackles high-value projects first

  • Targets efforts on tasks with the largest payoff

  • Uses multi-tasking to handle low-priority items

Fully competent: Meets expectations

  • Understands priorities and how to establish them

  • Discusses priorities when there is confusion

  • Is unafraid to ask questions about priorities

  • Shifts priorities as needed

  • Clarifies and then correctly handles competing priorities

  • Is very cognizant of priorities and adjusts focus as necessary

  • Reviews priorities before starting tasks

Marginal: Occasionally fails to meet expectations

  • Confuses priorities with preferences

  • Starts working before prioritizing

  • Uses inappropriate criteria in determining what to do first

  • Leaves major projects until the end

  • Argues over priorities

  • Decides on priorities and rigidly sticks to them, even when situations call for flexibility

  • Sees unessential matters as essential and vice versa

  • Lacks insight into her own ability to handle priorities

  • Is easily sidetracked by low-value tasks

Unsatisfactory: Consistently fails to meet expectations

  • Ignores priorities of assigned projects

  • Treats all assignments as having essentially the same priorities

  • Places no priority on setting priorities

  • Randomly prioritizes assignments

  • Works on lowest priorities first

  • Sees only the small picture

  • Spends too much time on low-level priorities and too little time on major priorities

  • Wallows in trivial matters

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