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Writing Your Year-End Review

For some lucky employees, December 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. This is called a year-end performance review, or a year-end summary.

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.

Woman with a clipboard pointing up at the phrase: "Writing Your Year-End Review"

How to write your year-end review (with examples).

Begin with a strong, positive opening statement.

Start your year-end review with a strong, positive opening statement that engages the reader.

“I met or exceeded all my goals this year, in addition to taking on the unexpected role of interim supervisor.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”


Let’s summaries with a little infographic:

A graphic of a man sitting at a desk writing next to a cheat sheet on how to write you year-end review: "Strong, positive opening Your accomplishments Why they matter Don't blame others Be complete Write for pass-it-on readers (senior management)"


Here is a complete example of a fictional Year-End Review.

My Year-End Review 2022

I am confident in saying that I have met my goals this year, along with earning the position of assistant department supervisor last week. It has always been my goal to be a better caretaker for the animals in our zoo. In working towards this goal, I have contributed to the zoo’s growth. I can say that 2022 has turned out better than I expected.

My Accomplishments

Achieving something significant in my area of work begins with small steps. I see myself as part of a larger chain of professionals that brings the animals what they need every day. Below are a few of the achievements I was privileged to gain this year:

  • There was waste reduction and significant savings. During my early months, I was still gaining a stable footing in my section. I was sometimes too careful of my steps that I compromised the number of animals I was supposed to care for in one day. There were even times when I overfed some of them.

I became more familiar with what each animal wanted. Because of this, our department cut down food wastage from 45% to 8%. This saved my department about $5,000 a month in buying food for the animals I handled.

  • Losses were prevented in the department. This year, more animals were added to my section. Because of the experience I have gained in the past year and a half, I have learned to be more attentive to the needs of the animals under my care.

Because of this, I was able to spot some individuals who became quiet all of a sudden. I also identified individuals who isolated themselves from the rest during feeding time. This allowed me to contact the zoo veterinarian right away.

Some of the animals I noticed were in the early stages of illnesses common to their species. The vet was able to treat them right away. This prevented complications and even deaths.

My quick thinking also allowed the vet to start monitoring the animals that were pregnant. This resulted in three successful pregnancies and births. The monumental events increased the zoo patrons by 60% before November. My supervisor even reported that more people have been signing up to see the animals.

  • The zoo became much safer. As a caretaker, I thought that I was just there to feed and keep an eye on the animals. This year, I realized that I was also there to see if the enclosures were ideal. In three enclosures under my care, I noticed that one of the large branches in the large bird enclosure was hanging a little low. I knew that it was something that should be addressed right away for the safety of the birds and their caretakers.

I notified my supervisor. This resulted in the replacement of the large tree in the enclosure. The tree doctors went into the other enclosures as well to check if the large trees there were still healthy. This convinced the administration to check the rest of the zoo’s artificial landscapes. In no time, carpenters and architects started to come in to reinforce the weakened perches, ledges, and homes in the 63 enclosures that we have. The zoo is now more confident in the safety and health of its animals and their caretakers.

  • The collaboration within the zoo improved. During my early years, I was a little shy about pointing out some and asking questions, especially during meetings. This year, I was able to let everyone know that a couple of teens were going around the zoo, throwing small pebbles at the lions and bears. This started a discussion about the teens because other caretakers also saw them doing the same thing to other animals.

This started a watch for these teens and other similar zoo guests. It increased the level of security and internal monitoring by 75%. The administration also installed more surveillance cameras to catch such guests in action. More security marshals were also assigned to each enclosure so that they could remove such guests right away.

Although these achievements reflect my improved efficiency as a caretaker, I still have not achieved an earlier clock-in time. I often arrive half an hour before my shift, but I realized that it is not enough to start and finish my duties. This often results in clocking out two hours after the official clock-out time. I should clock in much earlier. This will allow me to go home and rest earlier. This could help the zoo security check and lock up each department earlier in the evening as well.

Looking Forward

Despite the challenges of 2022, our zoo was able to power through. We maintained a safe and healthy environment for the animals, guests, and caretakers. From zero visitors due to COVID-19 back in 2020 to about 50 a day in 2021, to an amazing average of 250 visitors each month this year. Continuing to do what we do the best way we can is the only way to go. As we continue to provide quality animal care and awareness, I think the zoo will be expanding soon.

Enjoy your bonus!


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

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