Preparation for an Appraisal

As a PA (Personal Assistant), an EA (Executive Assistant) or secretary you may be asked to undertake an appraisal, this could be for junior members of staff. An Appraisal, Performance Review or Staff Review happens once a year.  The appraisal gives the employee and the employer an opportunity to openly discuss the previous years working structure.

Some General Guidelines

Conducting an appraisal if you are a PA

Appraisals are on an individual employee’s job description. If you are conducting the appraisal you need to ensure that you are aware of the employee’s job description and not undertake a comparison with other employees.  You also have to be aware that the appraisal is on their past performance and not on what you would like them to do. That is the value of job analysis and detailed job descriptions.

A rating system may form part of the appraisal process.  The rating system could be a numerical, alphabetical system or a combination. All PAs or secretaries conducting an appraisal should be trained on the rating system used.  A good rating could result in a pay rise or promotion.  It is important that the rating system is robust, understood and utilised.

An opportunity to observe the employee before the appraisal is an advantage. This observation should be conducive to all parties.

Research has discovered that employees have five key concerns when having an appraisal.

  • Employees are concerned when their direct supervisor doesn’t conduct their appraisal.
  • Staff want to have their appraisal conducted by someone who knows them and knows their workload.
  • Employees like to have an opportunity to reply to any issue that may arise during the appraisal process without accusation, a two-way conversation.
  • Staff like to give and receive specific feedback with examples and suggestions for improvement.  Praise for jobs/tasks well done with examples.  Do not generalise during your discussion.
  • Ensure that all changes or training courses are followed up within the next year. If a change in internal procedures, training course or any commitment to make a change from the employer has not been followed up; this will cause despondency with the employee.

 How Can You, as a PA or Secretary Manage These Concerns?

As a PA or Secretary undertaking the appraisals or performance reviews you should spend some time thinking about the following:

  • Make sure you have the authority to conduct the review.  For example, agreeing to some training courses and some potential internal procedural change.  Do not promise or agree to something you do not have the authority to provide.
  • Understand what two-way feedback is and how to conduct this type of conversation.  Remember you are conducting an interview.
  • Improve your observation of people’s behaviour. Develop your understanding of body language, the tone of voice and choice of words.
  • Remember to follow-up on any agreement made during the appraisal process.

 Why do I need to be concerned with Trust?

A level of trust between the employee and the employer is a vital component of the review process.  The employee needs to trust the evaluation process and that the company will do the jobs/tasks agreed upon.  The employer needs to trust that the employee will undertake the jobs/tasks agreed upon.

 Using Judgment during an Appraisal

During the review, process judgements are made by the employee and employer. Ensure all documentation is backed up with

  • Can this statement be supported if challenged?
  • Can proof be found to demonstrate a particular point?

Feedback and two-way conversations

Employees should receive feedback; there should be an appeal process in place in case the employee feels the rating is inaccurate. Document all facts. When in doubt, keep a record of an occurrence the employee could dispute.

During the appraisal process do not say anything that could be favourable or unfavourable. The basis could be an individual’s race, colour, religion, age, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation.

In Conclusion and Personal Reflection

In conclusion, appraisals are an opportunity for an employer to listen to their staff.  It is a chance to get feedback from employees on the performance and internal structure of the business.  Conducting an appraisal for a PA or Secretary is an enormous privilege and an opportunity to demonstrate your skills to an employer and employee.  Enjoy the process, do your homework and be fair.

Nevertheless, Performance Review or Staff Appraisal can be worrying. More information on Appraisals check out: To stop worrying take a look


Welcome to our online magazine from Julie and the team. If you have been on one of Julie’s training courses, you know she is passionate about PA, EAs and Secretaries being the best they can be. She also has very strong opinions about what a PA, EA and Secretary should and shouldn’t do. If you have a question, or would like to add an article, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

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