Do you deliver torturous performance appraisals?


I have learned something from providing many performance appraisals in my time. They can be torturous!

A badly handled performance appraisal that needs to communicate the need for improvement results in feelings of defensiveness and unhappiness.  Often the staff member feels ‘set-upon’ and misunderstood. This is the absolute opposite of the purpose of providing staff with feedback.

I have also, over the years, discovered that performance appraisals can be extremely positive and valuable. If conducted appropriately, they:

  • provide a unique opportunity for deep and effective communication
  • deepen the relationship between employee and employer
  • design a path for consistent performance advancement
  • reveal the extent of support staff members need in order to be successful
  • motivate staff, and provide the opportunity for them to thrive

The area that most dread – and get wrong – is telling staff that they are not doing something right. This is normally blurted out with little thought on delivery, and when the staff member attempts to explain themselves, it is perceived as ‘making excuses’.


It is the PIP Technique, sometimes called the Sandwich Technique. PIP means:




It is important to praise – and lavish that praise – when staff members do the right thing. Reward behaviour you want repeated. Your goal is to build and maintain feelings of self-worth and proficiency in the staff member, even when you are telling them that they need to improve in a particular area.

To do this you first detail areas they are succeeding in. Show acknowledgement and appreciation for the areas they perform well in. Then let them know of the areas you would like to see improved. Describe exactly what you want them to do, and what the practice can do to support this skill development. Then praise and encourage the staff member.


“Kim I want to tell you how happy I am with your skills at reception. Your friendliness and willingness to help patients feel cared for is an area of your work that I love. Patients notice this and I am sure it is one of the reasons they enjoy coming back, which is exactly what I need in a receptionist.

An area that I’d like to work with you on is asking for patient referrals. I know the current system is one you find difficult to work with, but I know that if we put our heads together, we will come up with a new approach that you will find much more suited to your personality. Let’s have a meeting in a week. Until then we can each research and contemplate what options we have, and then decide on a good method to try.

Kim it is important that the method we choose taps in to your great communication skills with patients, so it is you who will make this successful. I so appreciate what you bring to this practice, as do the patients.”

So when you need to tell a staff member to improve, use the PIP Technique and turn the discussion from one of torture to pleasure!