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How to Justify an Evaluation

by Kristine Tucker

Justifying an employee evaluation or a performance review requires a straightforward, unemotional strategy. Even though you want your subordinate to know you care, justification can't be based on feelings or personal connections. Both positive and negative reviews require justification; but negative comments, work-related warnings, behavior reprimands, and workplace failures must be well-documented and backed with solid proof to minimize confrontation.

Concrete Facts

When you write a critical or negative performance review, justify your reasons with detailed facts. Subordinates often demand to know why they received a bad review, whether it's a result of their own doing, budget constraints, or personal differences, according to "Forbes" magazine. Keep a running log of each employee's achievements, shortcomings, violations, warnings, and customer reviews so you'll have evidence to back up your evaluation. It may be time-consuming to keep thorough records, but it will pay off when an employee demands documented proof to back the performance review.

Job Description

Use the job description to justify both positive and negative performance reviews. Make a list of ways an employee met or exceeded his work responsibilities to justify a favorable review. Create a list of unaccomplished goals, workplace failures, and ignored duties to justify a negative review. To make sure your assessment is fair and unbiased. Use a rubric to evaluate all employees in similar positions. By using the job description as a guideline, employees can't complain if they don't measure up.

Avoid Personal Differences

Personality clashes and differing work styles aren't usually justifiable reasons for negative reviews; so unless the differences interfere with productivity, avoid them. Avoid focusing on an employee's unfavorable workplace attitude or unlikable personality traits, according to the Human Resources Department at the University of California, Berkeley. These types of criticisms are often viewed as petty, and the employee may use your negative comments as leverage to make workplace interactions more uncomfortable. If personal differences must be addressed, meet with the employee face to face to discuss your concerns.

Subordinate, Co-Worker and Supervisor Comments

Solicit confidential reviews from the employee's subordinates, co-workers, clients, and other supervisors if you want to make sure your evaluation is justifiable. Don't sing the employee's praises or make any negative comments until the others have submitted their reviews. You don't want your feelings to influence their evaluations. If other performance reviews coincide with your evaluation, use the combined comments to justify the performance review. If they differ, rethink your assessment to make sure it's fair and reasonable.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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