Performance Appraisals and Phrases For Dummies
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One of the most effective ways to enhance the impact of the appraisals you provide to employees is to select words that have a strong positive emotional charge. You may think that as long as you somehow get your message across, your word choice isn’t all that important. The truth is, some words hit home far more quickly and compellingly than others.

Employee’s name

A person’s name is one of the most powerfully charged words that she knows. If it wasn’t the first word she ever heard, it’s certainly among the very earliest. When someone hears her own name, she reacts. By saying your employee’s name before providing her with feedback, you’re improving her readiness to listen carefully to your next words — and to act on them.


Numerous studies have found the word “achievement” to be one of the premier sources of employee motivation. When employees hear the word “achievement” in your feedback, they’re better able to sense the significance of their accomplishments.


The word “build” is literally and figuratively one of the most constructive words to use in the performance appraisal process. It has a strong positive connotation — the word “build” inherently assumes that something positive is going to be designed, created, and brought to life.

In light of the compelling and memorable impact associated with the word build, you should include it across the broad spectrum of employee performance — for example, when you’re talking about building productivity, output, relationships, knowledge, skills, strengths, teamwork, performance, and profits.


By using the word “can” when appraising your employees, you’re sending a subtle message — not only in terms of positive expectations but also in terms of your confidence in the employees’ abilities to perform successfully. The more your employees hear what they can do, the more likely they are to do it. When you lace your comments with “can,” you’re literally reinforcing your employees’ can-do attitude.


There is no question that employees aspire to experience growth at work. However, growth is such a slow process that many employees aren’t sure whether it’s happening at all. In fact, because growth occurs in such minuscule snippets, some employees can miss it altogether.

By working with your employees each day, you can see growth when it occurs. In fact, you probably see more of your employees’ growth than anyone they know. That fact, in combination with the role that you play as their manager, provides you with extra insight and credibility when it comes to recognizing their growth.


The word profit has a strong emotional impact for employees at all levels of a company. As a result, it’s a very important word to use in the appraisal process. In fact, when profit is minimized in performance appraisals, it’s likely to be minimized in other ways as well.


Every employee remembers his first promotion with pride, and simply hearing the word “promotion” brings back at least a hint of those positive feelings. Plus, promotions have long been found to be a strong source of employee motivation. The result is that both of these factors contribute to the long-lasting positive emotional charge associated with the word “promotion.”


When providing positive feedback, you may be tempted to focus on numbers, dates, facts, and figures. However, the best way to make this type of information memorable and motivational is to include the word “success” in the process.

By including “success” as you review your employees’ successful attainment of hard numbers, your words will have a more compelling impact. Although your feedback will still have its share of rates, ratios, and percentages, such data will be wrapped in a motivational package that gives your employees a strong sense of recognition and personal competence.


In light of the large amount of ground that you have to cover in performance appraisals, one powerful word that you can easily overlook is “thanks.” If you forget to use it, you’re losing a valuable and cost-effective opportunity to raise an employee’s spirits, morale, and sense of self-worth.


Most people are conditioned to react positively to the word “yes” because it’s associated with favorable outcomes in most areas of their lives. The word “yes” is particularly powerful because it plays a critical role in building mutual understanding and agreement. You want your employees to listen to your comments and act on them, and the more they hear the word “yes,” the more likely they are to do exactly that.

Some managers give the word “yes” a good deal of play but then undo all its power and effectiveness by attaching one little word to it — namely, the word “but.” When employees hear “Yes, but . . .” the word “yes” becomes a prelude to a rejection. As a result, that “yes” may as well be “no,” which is another word to avoid in the appraisal process.

About This Article

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Ken Lloyd, PhD, is a nationally recognized consultant, author, and columnist who specializes in organizational behavior, communication, and management coaching and development.

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