Sep 10, 2022
20 min read

Best Performance Review Phrases for Your Business

In this article:

Performance review phrases sometimes have a way of meaning exactly the opposite of what you planned. That is the reason why you need to choose your words carefully while doing performance reviews.

For those who have seen The Office, this iconic mug needs no explanation. For those who haven't, just imagine a top-down meeting in which the opinion of your boss is the only one valid and anything can be said.

Fun aside, leaders do make a great difference in how their direct reports are perceived and in how the employees perceive themselves – which ultimately impacts their motivation. Research by Gallup shows that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.

So, what is the solution? No feedback at all? Definitely not. A survey by LinkedIn proves that 75% of employees find feedback valuable.

Feedback can be a useful engagement tool – if carried out effectively. But, how to get rid of subjectivity and bias, and ensure performance review comments are effective?

Keep reading to learn some of the best performance review phrases as well as concrete practices that will help you get feedback right. Let's go!

In this article:

  1. Best practices for writing performance review phrases
  2. Best performance review phrases to try
  3. Performance review phrases based on a specific evaluation type 
  4. Common mistakes to watch out for
  5. Performance review phrases to take note of
  6. 4 feedback examples of comments for your boss
  7. Benefits of effective performance review comments
  8. Conclusion
  9. FAQ: Best performance review phrases and comments

Best practices for writing performance review phrases

If you want to provide effective feedback, beware of the wording you use. Written feedback is often misinterpreted and the last thing you want is for your employees to get defensive.

Never mind who you are giving feedback to, take note of these five best practices to ensure your performance feedback is valued and considered.

  1. Be constructive

Provide positive feedback you can build on, establish points to work on in the future, and highlight the strengths and why you think the person can succeed.

  1. Be specific 

Real examples help convey the message. Point out situations in which you think the person could have done better and what you would recommend for the next time.

  1. Provide actionable feedback: 

Define expected actions and set clearly defined goals and next steps on what to do to improve.

  1. Be open to discussion: 

Feedback should start a conversation in which employees can share their thoughts and obstacles they find in their way. After all, if there is a bigger problem to solve it is better to learn about it asap.

  1. Start an ongoing conversation:

Set regular conversations about performance to help measure growth and correct the path along the way.

This may sound easier than it is. Check out the difference between good and bad feedback examples in the table below. 

Bad feedback Good feedback
Constructive “You never show up to team check-ups” “We all appreciate your opinion and would like to see you at team check-ups”
Specific “Your reports lack important information” “You could do more detailed reports. In the last quarter one, for example, I would have liked to see analytics that showed the evolution in sales”
Actionable “You don't listen to others at brainstorming sessions” “We all value your creative ideas but would like for you to leave space for others to talk too. Next time, try building on another person's idea”
Open to discussion “You have a negative attitude” “I have noticed you are having negative comments. I would like to set a meeting to discuss your level of satisfaction at work and if there is anything I could do to make you feel better”
Ongoing “You have not reached your sales goals” “You have not reached your sales goals. I would like to schedule check-ups every week to see how your sales are going and what you could do to improve them”

Best performance review phrases to try

Best performance review phrases to try

Source: Freepik 

The time has come to focus on what matters the most: effective performance review phrases. The good thing about it is that performance review phrases are as rich as your vocabulary. There are no limits, so you can let your imagination and creativity do their job.

But there is a shortcut, too. 

Topic-based reviews

As the name suggests, these reviews focus on a single topic rather than the employee's entire body of work. It can be anything from sales to customer service to professional development. 

Such evaluations are great for preparing unique performance review phrases focusing on specific work areas. Here are a few examples:

  • Quality of work performance review phrases
  • Job knowledge performance review phrases
  • Performance review phrases initiative
  • Dependability performance review phrases
  • Teamwork performance review phrases
  • Initiative performance review phrases
  • Performance review phrases for customer service
  • Self-performance review phrases

Most managers use common phrases and performance review examples that have already proved to work well in other organizations. That is also why we prepared a whole list of examples that you can use in different settings. Let’s check them out!

General phrases 

Most supervisors use general phrases to give an overview of employee performance. These can be both positive and negative, depending on individual cases. A few examples you can use include the following:

  • [Name] has proved to work well under pressure, continuously making the right decisions in challenging situations. 
  • [Name] is a valuable team player who comes up with innovative solutions and overdelivers in all aspects of work.
  • [Name] demonstrates advanced leadership abilities, thus inspiring their coworkers to follow the lead and exceed expectations.  
  • [Name] doesn’t seem capable of meeting her position's expectations. They frequently fail to deliver on time, undermining the team's morale. 

Leadership phrases 

According to the report, 63% of millennials believe they aren’t being fully developed as leaders by their employers for management positions. In such circumstances, these performance review phrases dedicated to leadership may as well be vital for the long-term success of your team: 

  • [Name] successfully manages scarce resources, considering the priority of critical tasks and projects. 
  • [Name] understands team members and customizes their approach to encourage colleagues to do the job. 
  • [Name] tends to confuse and discourage colleagues by giving unclear instructions and guidance. They also overwhelm people with new ideas mid-project. 
  • [Name] is prone to quarrels and arguments. They don't have the patience to work with new team members.

Team collaboration phrases 

A stunning 39% of employees report a lack of collaboration. As a manager, you need to create preconditions for team collaboration. One way to do that is through teamwork performance review phrases, so here come a few suggestions: 

  • [Name] is a team player. They are always ready to support their colleagues and assist if they seem to be struggling with difficult tasks. 
  • [Name] is a precious team member who makes new employees feel welcome and appreciated. 
  • [Name] likes working alone. They don’t enjoy collaborating with other team members. 
  • [Name] has not built a strong relationship with her peers. They don't feel like belonging to the group like other colleagues do. 

Motivation phrases 

It doesn’t take a genius to know that engaged workers are the best workers. After all, studies have shown that employees work 20% better when motivated. That’s also why you need to thoroughly assess employee engagement using the finest performance review phrases like these:

  • [Name] is a highly engaged member of the team. At the same time, their passion for work proves to be inspiring for other colleagues. 
  • [Name] is enthusiastic and can motivate even the most disinterested team members.  
  • [Name] is known for leaving early, even if other employees stay late to finish an important project. 
  • [Name] requires supervision around the clock. Inspiring them to take the extra step and cope with new tasks is hard. 

Skill-related phrases

Every manager is eager to build a team of skilled and knowledgeable professionals. A big part of performance analytics is evaluating your subordinates' practical abilities. The following phrases can help you express your findings more concisely:

  • [Name] has vast knowledge and technical skills, which allows them to solve problems more efficiently. 
  • [Name] helped us improve project ABC by suggesting a more creative approach that relies on new technologies. 
  • [Name] is struggling to learn new procedures and the latest industry trends. They hardly keep pace with the team. 
  • [Name] is never thrilled about opportunities to gain knowledge and expand expertise. 

Phrases related to areas for improvement 

One in five employees has made what they consider to be a critical mistake at work. While it is natural for all of us to make mistakes, managers must do all it takes to try and prevent possible omissions. We prepared a few performance review phrases related to the areas for improvement:

  • [Name] has not engaged with workshops, seminars, or other training events. They need to start partaking in training sessions relevant to his role. 
  • [Name] often confuses customers by using technical jargon and buzzwords. They need to simplify her vocabulary to be more concise and clear. 
  • [Name] doesn’t feel comfortable making decisions. They should work on their confidence and engage in decision-making processes. 
  • [Name] is reluctant to ask for help, resulting in costly mistakes. They need to become more cooperative and open-minded. 

 

 

Performance review phrases based on a specific evaluation type 

performance review phrases based on a specific evaluation type

Source: Freepik

Another way to categorize performance review phrases is according to the specific type of evaluation. For example, you probably won’t be using the same phrases for an annual performance review, 360-feedback or self-assessment. Let’s take a look at some performance review examples for employees that may come in handy. 

Self-assessment performance review phrases

A great way to make a review two-sided stems from a self-assessment performance review example. In this type of review, an employee is the one assessing themselves using the same assessment instruments as managers would have used. Usually, after completing the self-assessment, the review is usually handed to a manager or an HR department to get constructive feedback later during an official meeting.

Importantly, the self-assessment performance review example encourages employees to share their vision and take on their job, objectives, and responsibilities. Essentially, managers can use this review to see the performance through an employee's eyes. Often, to get an objective take on what an employee has to say, offering them a robust evaluation with appropriate performance review phrases. To help you with that, we've prepared the following examples of questions.

You can use self-assessment performance phrases with a positive attitude like the following:

 

  • I am appreciated by managers and peers
  • I have a flawless track record
  • I am reliable in my responsibilities
  • I try to stay positive at all times

To highlight potential areas of improvement, use these phrases:

  • I am aware time management is not my greatest strength, yet I am working toward meeting tight deadlines
  • I am aware not all team members comfortable with my communication skills, yet I am ready to develop a different style of communication
  • I am aware that I lag on written communication, yet I can compensate with verbal communication

Keeping a positive tone and presenting areas of improvement in the right manner is important for making a self-assessment performance review effective.

Annual performance review phrases

An annual performance review is a type of performance evaluation once a year. It offers an opportunity to review a whole year of performance while summing it up and identifying areas of improvement. Additionally, annual performance reviews are a great way for employees to plan their future careers and see where their strengths lie. An annual performance review example includes a job description, achievements, objectives, and professional development.

Consider the following questions to avoid common performance review phrases and make the assessment more effective.

For overall performance:

  • Which objectives have been met? And which goals lagged?
  • What achievements this year are you proud of the most?
  • What can a company do to make your work experience better?

For employee strengths:

  • What work is easiest for you?
  • What skills did you use most effectively?
  • What are your personal strengths?

For areas of improvement:

  • What can management do to help you meet objectives better?
  • What two-three aspects do you intend to focus on next year to grow professionally?
  • What goals fell short, and how will you avoid the same situation in future?

For future vision:

  • What are your most important objectives for the next year?
  • What responsibilities do you expect to change in the next year?
  • What career growth deliverables do you expect to achieve next year?

The aforementioned questions help make an annual performance appraisal beneficial for employees and managers. They cover all the major assessment areas and grant enough information to develop constructive feedback.

90-day performance review phrases

When you are looking for a performance assessment covering a period shorter than one year, a 90-day performance review example is the one to illustrate. Often, this approach is used at the end of a new employee's onboarding process. At this point, along with questions on onboarding, the review includes phrases linked to the position, team, and goals.

While making a 90-day performance evaluation effective, use the following questions:

For onboarding:

  • How would you rate an onboarding process?
  • What suggestions can you give on the onboarding process?
  • What were the most/least helpful aspects of onboarding?

For the position:

  • Has your current role met your expectations?
  • What aspects of your position do you like/dislike?
  • Has your perception of the company changed before onboarding and after?

For the team:

  • How have team members been helpful to you since your arrival?
  • When having any concerns about your work, whom can you talk to?
  • Have you experienced any issues communicating with team members or managers?

For the objectives:

  • Do you have a clear understanding of your objectives?
  • What professional domains do you need to improve?
  • Where do you see yourself in the company in the long run?

These questions cover all the bases and help determine whether your onboarding process needs to be altered and what aspects you need to address to pave a clear way toward professional development for an employee under review.

Team performance review phrases

A team performance assessment is about a group of peers rating the team's performance from different perspectives. This type of evaluation grants various opinions and shows what a group needs to succeed and what thwarts its development. Essentially, there are particular phrases and questions you can insert to make the team performance review example work for the team's best needs:

  • How well does your group work as a whole?
  • What instances of good collaboration come to mind?
  • What instances of lagging collaboration come to mind?
  • Do you feel comfortable communicating with team members?
  • What does the team need to boost collaboration?
  • Do you feel team members trust one another?
  • When was the last time a team member asked you for a piece of advice?
  • When the team faces an obstacle, who is the one to offer a resolution?

Effective performance review phrases need to be included with team performance review examples. They help identify leaders within a team and show how team members deal with issues and how a company can aid the group in improving the process.

360 performance review phrases

As we've mentioned before, a 360 performance review example is one of the most recent findings in performance evaluation. This approach focuses on getting feedback from a group and particular individuals simultaneously. In such a case, managers also see how a group perceives a person under review from an individual's perspective. Usually, a 360 performance review is done through a collection of feedback from up to twelve individuals.

 

The list can include a supervisor, an employee under review, a client communicating with a reviewee, three or four team members, and an assessment administrator from an HR department. You can use various phrases to make a 360 performance review example effective in such a case. To recognize a positive performance, consider the following:

  • When you encountered [evidence] issue, your problem-solving skills made a huge difference
  • When you volunteered to take on this part of the project, you saved the team a great deal of time
  • Your time management skills are valuable for the group

While pointing out areas of improvement, consider the following phrases:

  • The team thinks you can improve this skill by [solution]
  • An area for improvement to prioritize is the one linked to your great time management skills
  • The team would appreciate it if you used less managerial tone during tone meetings

All in all, you can see that the aforementioned phrases constitute a part of constructive feedback offered during a 360 performance evaluation process. Always have an employee's best interest in mind and ensure your output focuses on making the case better instead of only pointing out someone's mistakes. 

 

Common mistakes to watch out for

There are some practices that can ruin performance review phrases. Take note of them!

  1. Focusing too much on employee mistakes: Remember that even negative feedback needs to be constructive. While employees' weaknesses and mistakes should definitely be pointed out, the main message to convey is “I know you can do better, you have all these strengths that prove it and I trust you will improve”.
  2. Choosing offensive language: The wording you choose to express your points is critical. Remember you are not assessing the person but the actions of that person. Be neutral and respectful. You want this person to understand you are in this together and all you want is to help.
  3. Having no interaction with employees: Basic rule! If you want team members to listen to your real-time employee feedback, be an active listener as well. Proposing a follow-up meeting can help the employee understand you want to hear his or her thoughts.
  4. Disregarding employee improvement areas: Focusing solely on the strengths of an employee can be as damaging as focusing only on the mistakes. Improvement areas need to be pointed out, along with what tools you think the person has to do better.

Performance review phrases to take note of

Here we compiled a list of performance review phrases you can use for evaluations.

Positive performance review phrases

About general attitude:

  • “Has a positive attitude”
  • "Is a positive influence in group projects"
  • “Creates a positive work environment”
  • “Is an active and focused listener”

About creative skills:

  • “Develops innovative strategies and brings creative or innovative ideas to improve company processes”
  • "Has strong creative thinking skills"
  • "Has an outstanding ability to find innovative solutions and come up with creative ideas"

About communication skills:

  • "Effectively communicates expectations and new ideas, offers helpful feedback at team meetings, and actively listens to other people´s suggestions and ideas".

About time management:

  • “Effectively prioritizes urgent matters and delivers job responsibilities in timely manner”
  • "Is able to complete tasks in an efficient manner"

About problem-solving capacity and thinking skills:

  • “Consistently passes challenging issues”
  • “His ability to solve problems is exceptional”
  • “He always comes out with reasonable conclusions-based analysis and solutions”

About interpersonal skills:

  • “Is a team player who builds strong relationships with other team members”

About technical knowledge:

  • “Shows a deep knowledge of technical tools”

Negative performance review phrases

About attitude and emotional intelligence:

  • "Often shows a negative attitude when being assigned a new project"
  • “Should work on his ability to accept emotional arguments and other people's ideas”
  • “Often lets personal issues interfere in his/her performance”

About time management and punctuality:

  • “Is frequently late to check-in meetings”
  • “Has difficulty following through with tasks that require a high level of organization”

About technical knowledge:

  • “There are professional development opportunities in technical areas such as...”

About missing company goals:

  • "Lacks focus on company objectives".

About the quality of work:

  • "Does not meet company standards of quality".

4 feedback examples of comments for your boss

Micromanaging boss

Most micromanaging bosses can´t help getting too involved in day-to-day activities and don't see very clearly what they are doing. Providing specific examples of what kind of actions make you feel this way and suggesting a solution could increase their self-awareness.

Example: “I sometimes feel you don´t trust me. When you sit next to me while I am working it feels like you don´t believe I can do it on my own. It would be great if you could assign me tasks with increasing responsibilities, and set weekly check-ups to review the progress. I think I could be much more productive with fewer interruptions”.

Manager with miscommunication issues

If your leader has trouble delivering clear messages, proposing a solution will be appreciated.

Example: “I sometimes feel the people in the team understand different things of what you  say. It would be great if, for the next tasks, we do a team kick-off meeting to align expectations. We could also use software to track our projects and document agreements.”

Inflexible manager

Some managers have trouble thinking outside the box and like things to be done the way they would do it. Providing clear examples and different solutions might be revealing.

Example: “You have some rigid ideas on how to carry out tasks. For example, do we need to document everything in Excel and in the software as well? I think that if you could give us space to propose new ideas and discuss possible solutions, we could improve our efficiency”.

Inspiring manager

Giving positive feedback to an inspiring boss is as important as being critical. Recognizing good leadership will encourage your manager to continue with good performance.

Example: “You set clear, actionable goals and motivate the team to achieve them. Being flexible and open to suggestions, and always ready to help when you can, encourages us to improve”.

Benefits of effective performance review comments

Effective performance review phrases can help:

  1. Raise self-awareness: Sometimes there is a surprising difference between what a person thinks of himself and what others – including their boss – do. Receiving honest feedback helps employees close the gap and be more aware of what they must work on.
  2. Develop people: Performance review comments start a conversation that helps clarify expectations, define desired competencies, and understand individual development, team development, and organizational growth. It will also help identify training opportunities and discuss career development.
  3. Improve teamwork: If each team member understands his/ her unique abilities and weaknesses, it will be easier for the leader to reorganize the workload and internal processes for better productivity.
  4. Increase employee engagement and retention: Constructive criticism can boost engagement and make employees eager to grow within the company. Of course, leaders need to be trained on how to give effective feedback.
  5. Improve overall company performance and increase productivity: Feedback drives engagement. According to research by Gallup, highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable.
  6. Can shed light on hidden opportunities: Performance review meetings should be an opportunity for open conversation, in which not only the rater but also the person being evaluated should feel free to express their point of view and, in the process, expose hidden desires or expectations.
  7. Create a feedback culture: Performance reviews should not be an isolated act but the starting point for regular communication about an employee's performance and growth opportunities. Making feedback a common practice can take the awkwardness out of it and build a company culture of trust and honesty.

Conclusion

Performance review phrases are easy to verbalize employee-related opinions without missing out on anything. The examples of performance review phrases we stated above can serve as a valuable guideline for all of your future employee evaluations.

Even better, you can pair common performance review phrases with Effy, our cutting-edge performance management platform.

Does it sound like a good deal? Sign up now, and you’ll learn what makes Effy one of the best performance management tools for modern leaders. 

FAQ: Best performance review phrases and comments

‍How do you write an impactful performance review phrase?

A good performance review phrase has to leave no place for inference. It should also be motivational. The goal is to inspire people to keep working and improve. Finally, it has to be respectful and use language that isn't offensive.

How to give effective performance review comments?

Performance review comments should follow these best practices:

  1. Be constructive
  2. Be specific 
  3. Provide actionable feedback
  4. Be open to discussion
  5. Start an ongoing conversation

What to write in my performance review comments section?

The comments section in the performance review is for the employee to acknowledge the performance review comments and add any agreements made in the one-to-one meeting. Take the opportunity to thank your leader for a productive meeting and reinforce your commitment. While it is a good idea to share obstacles you find during the one-to-one, avoid including them in the review comments section as they may come out like excuses.

Why are performance review comments important?

Performance review comments – the phrases used in performance review meetings – are very powerful. While performance appraisal aims to help team members be aware of their strengths, areas of improvement, and personal development opportunities, they can either motivate the employee to improve or have the complete opposite effect.

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