Giving Practice Staff Appraisal can be difficult. Some employees/contractors react to criticism defensively. And, sometimes, no one understands what merits a positive evaluation. If your practice employees/contractors feel that you take it easy on some of them while coming down hard on others, resentment is inevitable. Avoid these problems by following these rules:

• Be specific. When you set goals and standards for your employees/contractors, spell out exactly what they will have to do to achieve them. For example, don’t say “work harder” or “improve quality.” Instead, say “increase xyz by 20% over last year” or “make no more than three errors per day in data input.” Similarly, when you evaluate an employee/contractor, give specific examples of what the employee/contractor did to achieve — or fall short of — the goal.

• Give deadlines. If you want to see improvement, give the employee/contractor a timeline to turn things around. If you expect something to be done by a certain date, say so.

• Be realistic. If you set unrealistic or impossible goals and standards, everyone will be disheartened — and will have little incentive to do their best if they know they will still fall short. Don’t make your standards too easy to achieve but do take into account the realities of your clinic workplace.

• Be honest. If you avoid telling a practice employee/contractor about performance problems, the employee/contractor won’t know that he or she needs to improve. Be sure to give the bad news, even if it is uncomfortable.

• Be complete. Write your evaluation so that an outsider reading it would be able to understand exactly what happened and why. Remember, that evaluation just might become evidence in a lawsuit. If it does, you will want the judge and jury to see why you rated the employee/contractor as you did.

• Evaluate performance, not personality. Focus on how well (or poorly) the practice employee/contractor does the job — not on the employee/contractor’s personal characteristics or traits. For instance, don’t say the employee/contractor is “angry and emotional.” Instead, focus on the workplace conduct that is the problem.

• Listen to your employees/contractors. The evaluation process will seem fairer to your practice employees/contractors if they have an opportunity to express their concerns, too. Ask practice employees/contractors what they enjoy about their jobs and about working at the practice. Also ask about any concerns or problems they might have. You’ll gain valuable information, and your employees/contractors will feel like real participants in the process. In some cases, you might even learn something that could change your evaluation.