An employee performance review can be stressful for both the employee and the employer. This is especially true when the employee in question has been struggling on the job. You want to let him know where he needs to improve, but you also want to include some positive comments to encourage him to keep trying hard and getting better. Even an employee who is having a hard time doing his job effectively should have some positive attributes you can point to in your evaluation.
Often an employee who is having a hard time learning the ropes will still make a strong effort to show up every day to the job, ready to work. This is an important step. It might seem trivial, but simply showing up demonstrates that she is responsible and wants to be there. Congratulate her on her attendance and thank her for always coming to work on days where she is scheduled. If she is prompt, include that bit of positive behavior as well and let her know you appreciate it.
You don't want to comment too much on an employee's appearance. If he takes it the wrong way, you could get yourself into trouble. If he shows up looking professional and well-groomed, however, there's nothing wrong with pointing that out as a positive attribute. Use words such as "professional workplace attire," as opposed to words like attractive, pretty and handsome.
Willingness to Learn
The word struggling implies at least a desire and attempt to achieve and succeed in the workplace. This willingness to learn should be commended. Even if the employee is having a hard time turning this desire into action, she is at least maintaining the right attitude. Encourage her by saying that you're sure this determination and grit will pay off with tangible successes and marked improvements on the job.
Team Player Mindset
Employees who are out for No. 1 are often the cutthroat, success at all costs type. While it's possible that a struggling employee can have this mindset, and show signs of this, it's more likely that he is a team player. After all, he is probably aware that he isn't the most successful employee on the staff. He has to lean on others to get his job done to some level of completion. If he is naturally the me-first type, this team player compliment might just make him think twice about letting those instincts out to play once he gets more comfortable at work.
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