Employee reviews and appraisals are some of the hardest meetings to have, and writing the report can create conflict or fear. Rather than being a manager who instills negative feelings in his employees, you can write your appraisal in such a way that the employee feels prepared to meet new challenges or fix current issues.
Decide on criteria for reviewing. Any manager that goes into a review completely subjectively will be respected less, and All Business notes that many employees already find written reviews to be "artificial and unfair." A good idea is to think about the role of the employee under review, create categories regarding that role (punctuality, work ethic, ability to meet deadlines, etc.) and use a numeric scale to rate the employee's effectiveness. For instance, for each of the categories above, make a numeric scale (from one to five) and circle which number best fits. For punctuality, if the employee is always on time, he would receive a 5; mostly on time, a 4; average punctuality a 3; less than desirable punctuality, a 2; and consistently late, a 1. Provide employees with their own copies of the report.
Prepare a report based on current conditions--in other words, how the employee is currently performing. Rehashing the first few weeks of the employee's work history--often the most difficult and awkward--will make the employee feel despondent and unmotivated. Compliment the ways the employee is contributing, note where she can perform better, and recommend ways that the employee can contribute further in the future. For example, you might say, "You have really grown in your Excel skills, and I'd like to add on some work with Visio now."
Evaluate based on your own observations, not hearsay. Office gossip is not an accurate indicator of an employee's performance. For instance, saying, "I hear that many of the employees see you with personal email sites open," would cause the employee to feel upset and vulnerable. Only bring up a point if you have witnessed it yourself.
Use specific examples for your employee review. In any observation--whether positive or negative--be sure to have an example to back it up. For instance, if you want the employee to note his punctuality, say, "I appreciate the days you make it into the office by 8:30. Perhaps if you are going to be later, you could give a phone call." Employees will not grow unless they can understand what they did right or wrong in a specific scenario.
Encourage the employee under review to indicate her goals for the next year. This type of positive reinforcement makes the manager-worker relationship feel more reciprocal and motivates the employee to achieve more than she already has. Ask, "What do you feel you are capable of adding on to your duties?" or recommend a new task yourself, "I think that you are ready to move into increased client invoicing responsibility."