Power Words for Performance Reviews

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Writers of performance evaluations are sometimes guilty of bland, washed-out words in describing a particular employee's performance. This doesn't have to be the case. Bolstering the power of words can be as simple as asking "So what?" to the word involved. A power word will withstand scrutiny by being dynamic and grounded in concrete detail.

Words of Recognition

Rather than resort to overused and seemingly vacuous words such as good or great, Darcy Jacobsen of human resources company Globoforce suggests revisiting the power of a few simple words of recognition -- such as you, because, thanks and people's names. A written performance review may not address an employee directly, but if a reviewer discusses the review with the employee, you adds immediacy and draws attention to the acts or deeds you are commending. Because provides credibility by furnishing concrete examples, and the person's name inserted at intervals during the talk helps redirect attention and affirm the person's efforts. Thanks is an oft-neglected word that further reinforces appreciation and indebtedness for a job well-done.

Five Words

Rather than drowning in the babble of bureaucratic jargon during performance reviews, some companies such as Kayak use pithy five-word reviews. In an interview on FastCompany, Kayak founder Paul English discusses restricting the review to five terms forces a performance reviewer to distill the essence of the person's strengths and weaknesses. Reviewers might mix the positive and the negative together in a ratio of 2:3 or 3:2, such as quick, confident, change-averse, untrusting and technically savvy, to present a balanced picture.

Power Verbs

According to writing coach Jodi Torpey, verbs are the powerhouses of a performance review, and the more active and engaging they are, the better. Graphic verbs, such as blazed or systematized, help a reader visualize the accomplishments of the person being written about. Another way to deploy verbs is to select them based on the STAR formula: Situation when the skill was used; Tasks accomplished; Actions taken; Results of the work. Alternately, reviewers can give context to vague verbs such as promote or attend by asking "Why?" about that verb. The stronger result: "secured three accounts during the meeting."

Comparisons in Context

Similarly, to make comparison words such as increase, decrease, more or improve more powerful, performance evaluators can plump up the context surrounding them. Even a seemingly powerful statement such as "increased the attendance at the 2015 conference by 10 percent" could be enhanced with what that increase consisted of. A more vigorous statement might say: "increased the attendance of CEOs in targeted prospect companies at the 2015 conference 10 percent over the previous year."