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Performance management handbook (appraisal) - chapter 9

Chapter 9. Evaluating Employee Performance 

Approximately 30 days before the end of the performance appraisal cycle, rating officials and employees should begin to prepare for the appraisal process. Rating officials will ask employees to submit written documentation of accomplishments. An employee who is ratable as of the end of the rating cycle (September 30, October 31, or May 31) must receive an annual performance summary rating. 

An employee is ratable if:

  • He or she is under an approved performance plan on the last day of the appraisal cycle; and 
  • He or she worked at least 120 days under an approved performance plan in one or more positions during the appraisal cycle.

An employee is unratable if one of the following applies:

  • The employee did not work at least 120 days under an approved performance plan in one or more positions during the appraisal cycle; and
  • The employee has been placed on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) because the rating official has determined that the employee’s performance is at Level 1 on one or more critical elements. A PIP is only developed when an employee’s is at Level l.

If an employee is unratable because he or she was on a PIP, the rating period will be extended for the duration of the PIP and the employee will be rated upon completion of the PIP.

Performance appraisal discussions are conducted in two stages. The rating official is required to conduct a 1) pre-appraisal meeting only if the employee requests one and 2) performance appraisal meeting with each employee. 

Pre-appraisal Meeting

The purpose of the pre-appraisal meeting is to provide the employee an opportunity to meet with the rating official prior to the formal appraisal meeting. At the pre-appraisal meeting the employee may: 

  • Present an assessment of his or her performance achieved during the appraisal cycle; 
  • Inform the rating official of aspects of his or her work of which the rating official may not be aware; and
  • Identify objectives he or she would like to include in the performance plan for the next appraisal period.

During the pre-appraisal meeting, the rating official clarifies his or her understanding of the employee’s performance, and discusses the employee’s accomplishments. The rating official may not discuss overall scores, ratings, or awards. 

Performance Appraisal Meeting

A rating official must confer with the approving official about the organization’s performance and gain approval of (including the approving official’s signature on CD-430, Performance Management Record) the rating they recommend for their employees before discussing those ratings with employees. Following approval of the performance summary ratings by the approving official, the rating official is responsible for conducting a performance appraisal meeting to present the final rating to the employee.

If an employee receives Level 1 on any critical element rating in his or her position of record, or in an interim rating that becomes a final rating of record, the employee’s summary rating must be Level 1. 

As provided in Executive Order 5396, the performance appraisal and resulting rating of a disabled veteran may not be lowered because the veteran has been absent from work to seek medical treatment.


The employee signs and dates the summary rating to indicate that it has been discussed. If the employee refuses to sign, the rating official should note this in the employee signature block of the summary rating. 

Signature by the approving official places both the performance plan and summary rating in effect. A copy of the summary rating must be given to the employee.

Written Documentation Requirements

Rating officials must provide either an overall narrative justification of the summary rating or a written justification for each element rating. They must do one or the other, and may do both. A written justification is required for any element rated below Level 3. 

Ratings of Record

The following summary performance ratings constitute a rating of record

  • The annual performance appraisal rating as discussed above;
  • An interim rating given by a departing supervisor or to a departing employee when no opportunity to serve the minimum appraisal period (120 days) in the current cycle remains; or
  • A rating rendered following completion of a PIP.

Summary Rating Derivation

To derive a final, or summary, performance rating at the end of the appraisal cycle, each critical element must be assessed against the generic (and any supplemental) performance standards established at the beginning of the cycle or as modified and documented during a progress review. Each element is evaluated and translated into a score using the following scale:

Level 5 (the highest level of performance) = 5 points

Level 4 = 4 points

Level 3 = 3 points

Level 2 = 2 points

Level 1 (unacceptable performance) = 1 point

After each critical element has been rated, multiply the score for each element by the weight assigned to it. No fractional scores or weights may be used.

Critical Element 1 is 30% of plan Rated at Level 4 30 x 4 = 120 points
Critical Element 2 is 30% of plan Rated at Level 3 30 x 3 = 90 points
Critical Element 3 is 20% of plan Rated at Level 5 20 x 5 = 100 points
Critical Element 4 is 20% of plan Rated at Level 4 20 x 4 = 80 points
Total 390 points

Total the individual scores to determine the overall score. In the example above, the sum of 120 + 90 + 100 + 80 =390. 

Using the ranges below, determine what range the overall score (example 390) falls within. 

Overall Score Summary Rating

470 – 500 points Level 5

380 – 469 points Level 4 

290 – 379 points Level 3

200 --289 points Level 2

100 – 199 points Level 1

This becomes the employee’s summary rating for that performance appraisal cycle. In the example cited, the final summary rating would be a Level 4 since the score of 390 falls within the range for Level 4. 

Note: If one critical element is rated Level 1, the summary rating must be Level 1. 

Unratable Employees

If an employee has served for the entire rating cycle on detail to another agency, on an approved federally-sponsored program or long-term training, and an appraisal of performance cannot be obtained despite reasonable efforts, the employee must be considered unratable.

Other unratable situations may include:

  • The employee’s supervisor leaving the Agency when no other supervisor or acting supervisor can reasonably appraise the employee’s performance; or

Approved absences creditable under 5 CFR 531.406 (LWOP, Military Service, etc.).


An employee covered by Departmental Administrative Order (DAO) 202-771, “Administrative Grievance Procedure,” may grieve the rating and/or the performance score in accordance with the procedures of this Handbook and DAO 202-771. The employee must first present a Request for Reconsideration. It may be presented either orally or in writing to the rating official within 15 days of receipt of the appraisal from the rating official. The rating official must provide a written decision back to the employee within 15 days of receipt of the Request for Reconsideration. The rating official will consult with the Servicing Human Resources Office (SHRO) for guidance before issuing a written decision. If the matter is not resolved at that stage, the employee may then file a formal grievance by following the procedures in DAO 202-771. 

Employees who are excluded from coverage under DAO 202-771 because they are in a collective bargaining unit and want to grieve the rating and/or the performance score must follow the procedures contained in the applicable negotiated grievance procedure (NGP). 


The Department does not prescribe a distribution of ratings and does not permit a distribution to be prescribed. The Department assures that only employees whose performance exceeds normal expectations are rated at the level above Level 3, by sampling plans and ratings by servicing human resources offices, by Departmental oversight reviews, and by other reviews required by regulation.