I received a survey request for my feedback on a restaurant, and I noticed the categories I could pick from regarding the noise level:
Quiet . . . Moderate . . . Energetic
Did you notice the absence of the word noisy?
I spotted it right away because I had found the restaurant noisy. But I appreciated that the survey language helped me recognize that my noisy could be another person's energetic or lively. In fact, the word made me realize that the restaurant was very lively and, well, energetic–not really noisy at all.
If you write performance appraisals, let the difference between noisy and energetic remind you to think carefully about the way you describe employees. You may at first want to describe someone as nitpicky, but a positive version is meticulous or very careful. Can you see the positive side too?
Before you characterize him as stubborn, are you certain you don't mean persistent or tenacious? And is she narrow-minded or highly focused? Is he a loner or an independent thinker? Are her plans wildly optimistic or exciting–or both?
The language of performance reviews can inspire or dishearten an employee, so try to see both sides of a trait and praise the positive side too. When you do, employees can recognize their strengths and opportunities. Maybe he is too chatty for the accounting department but would be perfectly sociable in client relations. Your language can help an employee make that kind of connection.
If you get stuck trying to think of alternative words, try your online thesaurus or synonym feature. But double-check the meaning of any word you don't normally use. My thesaurus gave erratic, indecisive, and inconsistent as suggestions for nitpicky–not at all what I intended.