Writing Your Year-End Review

For some lucky employees, now is the time of year when their company rewards them with an annual bonus. If they have met or exceeded their goals for the year, they receive a bonus–sometimes a percentage of their salary and sometimes a fixed amount.

Bonuses are not automatic. Often employees have to evaluate their own performance, telling their manager (and anyone else who approves the bonus) how well they have done in accomplishing their goals.

For you enviable readers who are expecting a bonus, here are a few tips on how to write about your performance this year. The rest of us can use these suggestions anytime we are describing our accomplishments or writing a self-appraisal.

  1. Begin with a strong, positive opening statement.
    "I met or exceeded all my goals this year, in addition to taking on the unexpected role of interim supervisor."
  2. List the details of what you have accomplished. That way, even a manager who does not work with you closely will see that your accomplishments are impressive.
    "I achieved my goal of rolling out a new payroll manual. To do so, I gathered all the procedures from the six plants, rewrote and edited them, and assembled them in both hard copy and online manuals, which are now available throughout the company."
    Rather than saying "I trained Alvira, Yusef, and others," list the names of every person you trained.
    Rather than writing "I worked toward my goal of improving my financial reports," list the classes you attended, the books you read, and any details showing that you actually have improved your reports.
  3. Answer the unstated question "So what?" for each of your achievements. For the examples above, you would describe the positive companywide impact of the new payroll manual, the significant work which the people you trained are now able to accomplish, and the contribution your improved financial reports have made to the organization's effectiveness. Use data wherever possible, especially data showing that you have saved or made money for the company. Describe how your strong performance has made your team, department, division, or company stronger.
  4. If you have not met a goal but must write about it, include it in the middle rather than at the end of your list of goals. (The reason for including it in the middle is so that you will be able to end strong.) State whatever you have done to work toward the goal.
  5. Avoid blaming anyone else for your inability to meet a goal. Use a passive verb construction to avoid blame, like this:
    "I did not achieve my goal of meeting our international partners because funds for travel were not approved." It is not necessary to state that your manager did not approve your travel request.
  6. Be complete. Use complete sentences and bullet points rather than quick phrases such as "Web content revisions." Remember that your manager may not recognize brief notes.
  7. Write for pass-it-on readers. Sometimes a senior manager or someone in the personnel department must approve your bonus. That person will benefit from details, complete sentences, and spelled out versions of abbreviations and acronyms.

For more suggestions and guidelines on writing your own performance review–and writing about your accomplishments–read the post "Writing About Ourselves: Bragging Without Blushing." 

Enjoy your bonus!



  1. Thank you for your article. As a Technology Manager and developer, I sometimes stuggle writing these reviews that are mandatory at my company. Developers love to code, but hate to write. I’ve been doing these now for a few years and didn’t realise how off-base I’ve been in my personal reviews.
    I was able to use some of your examples, which turned a difficult time into a valuable experience. Thanks You!

  2. thanks for your wonderful articles! THis is the first year I need to write a self-appraisal, your info is great!

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