Make the Most of Your Employee Evaluation

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

For many people, their annual employee evaluation is a ritual in which their supervisor goes down a checklist of various characteristics and performance indicators. They remain passive through it all, believing they have no control over the content or the process.

In reality, an evaluation is an opportunity to review your past accomplishments, reflect on your current position, and outline your future. And since a raise, bonus, or future promotion may hinge on that evaluation, you have a vested interest in making the most of that meeting and written report. So, rather then letting the cards fall as they may, be proactive:

Pave the way: About a month before your evaluation, give your supervisor a summary of your professional accomplishments and activities from the prior year. Your supervisor can’t possibly keep track of everything you and your coworkers do in the course of a day. If you submit this report any less than a month before your scheduled evaluation or anniversary date, your supervisor may have already completed the evaluation, and you’ll miss the opportunity to have input.

Don’t mention routine job duties and responsibilities in this report. Rather, list committees you’ve sat on, special projects you’ve worked on, and presentations you’ve made, such as inservices, grand rounds, and community education. If you’ve periodically filled in as a charge nurse or worked with students or new hires, mention that, too. Include professional association activities, completed CE courses, and any formal education or certification you are pursuing. Keep good records during the year so you don’t have to rack your brain for this type of information come evaluation time.

Make the time: Be sure to schedule your performance evaluation appointment when both you and your supervisor will not be rushed. This might be at the end of the work day, over lunch, or before the work day begins, depending on the environment you work in. If either party is rushed, ask for another time to come back and discuss your career plan.

Get it in writing: A lot gets lost during any verbal exchange. Don’t hesitate to take some notes during your evaluation about specific points brought up by your supervisor, both good and bad. Ask for a copy of your written evaluation. You’re entitled to it. This will allow you to go over it again later and be certain you understand it. You can also keep a copy in your professional portfolio for future reference.

Negotiate points as necessary: If you believe you deserve a higher rating than you received in a particular category, don’t hesitate to say so and give examples why. You might say, “You gave me an ‘average’ rating in the coworker relations category. I think I deserve a ‘very good’ considering I’m working in a high-stress environment with a few people who have very difficult personalities.” Your supervisor may or may not agree, but it’s a good idea to plant the seed.

Communicate professional goals: Let your supervisor know if you’re planning to go back to school or working on becoming eligible for certification in your specialty. Mention what you’d like to accomplish in the future. For example, if management or staff education is in your plans, say so. Ask your supervisor for advice, guidance, and support in attaining your goals.

Express what you need and want: Let your supervisor know what would make your job easier or more productive. For example, you might say, “I could do a much better job if I had more dedicated time without interruption to complete projects.” Don’t whine or complain — offer reasonable, workable solutions. Also, let your supervisor know if you’d like more responsibility, more challenging projects, or to work on something specific, such as a quality improvement project.

Ask for feedback and advice: In most cases, your supervisor has a certain format to follow when presenting an annual evaluation. Sometimes rating scales are used and other times written comments are called for. But don’t leave it at that. Ask specific questions: “What do you see as my strong points?” and if not already discussed, “What specific areas could I improve on?” This type of question can yield valuable information for future improvement, understanding, and perspective.

Write something: There is almost always the opportunity for an employee to write something on the evaluation. It’s a good idea to write something positive if you can about your job, your workplace, your supervisors, or your coworkers. If you disagree with any points made or think you have been unfairly rated, you should write that, too.

Stay professional: If something is brought up that you don’t agree with, don’t get angry or defensive. Hold your temper and remain professional. You might ask, “Can you give me a specific example of that?” If a perceived shortcoming is mentioned, you might ask, “What would you suggest I do differently?” Make an effort to understand your supervisor’s perspective.

An annual evaluation is an opportunity to review, reflect, and make plans for the future. Make the most of your next employee evaluation by taking an active role before, during, and after the meeting.

Copyright Nursing Spectrum Nurse Wire ( All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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