What Does “Exceptional” Performance Look Like?

An inside look at performance ratings from employees and supervisors.

By Staff  |  Revised February 2018

The annual performance review program contains four rating levels, leaving many people wondering: what puts an employee above "Fully Achieved Expectations" and into "Exceptional"?

As a review, these are the four performance ratings:

Exceptional Performance consistently or far exceeded expectations.
Fully Achieved Expectations Fully achieved and at times may have exceeded expectations.
Some Expectations Met Performance occasionally met expectations.
Expectations Not Met Immediate improvement is needed.

While Fully Achieved Expectations is expected for all UC Davis employees, it's not as easy as showing up for work. To reach this rating, employees must satisfy high expectations, consistently demonstrate their skills and abilities, and uphold university values and positive organizational culture.

"People think of an average score as a C, but someone who fully achieves expectations is an A," shared Sonja Colbert, Office of the Chancellor and Provost Business and Technology Services, "You are achieving all of the expectations and you are a contributing member to the university." 

It's not unusual for an employee to receive Fully Achieved Expectations even when they surpass expectations at times. However, if an employee consistently outperforms their outlined role and responsibilities and demonstrates extraordinary skills for their position, they may achieve an Exceptional rating.

"To be 'Exceptional,' the employee not only does everything phenomenally, but consistently reaches beyond the job description – taking on extra work, performing in a leadership role, coaching peers and colleagues, innovating practices and taking initiative," said William Garrity, University Library. "Considering this, Exceptional is a comparatively less frequent occurrence."

So how do you show your supervisor that you have earned an exceptional performance review?

We compiled some brief excerpts of previous years' employee self-assessments to give you an example of how to write about your achievements.

  • Highlight your successes
  • "I worked collaboratively with my supervisor, co-workers and vendors and ensured that our customer service delivery remained consistent throughout the project, while saving our department over $40,000 a year."
  • Use measurable figures
  • "As a result, the current climate of the organization is very positive and engagement has increased, as indicated through the 15% increase in completed transactions with no increased funding or staffing."
  • Illustrate your contributions to the unit
  • "During this appraisal year, my team introduced a new technology to the academic units.  In addition, we developed and implemented an extensive, and very successful training program for the technology.  The technology implementation provided an opportunity to standardize processes across multiple schools and colleges, resulting in the elimination of duplicate work and handoffs in the historical processes."
  • Demonstrate how you overcame challenges
  • "The budget reductions our unit experienced this year resulted in increased workload and responsibilities for me and my team.  In spite of this, I was able to work with my staff to improve efficiencies, reducing our average project turnaround time by 10% and reducing overhead costs for customers campuswide."

Remember, Exceptional means consistently going beyond the job expectations in your position description. If you are looking for more help on how to write your self-assessment, check out these helpful tips from fellow employees or other resources online.