Performance reviews can be tricky to navigate. What you say, and how you say it, impacts a team member’s morale and engagement.
Over the years, I’ve come to see performance reviews as an opportunity for both parties to give and receive constructive feedback on employee performance. It’s also a great way to receive feedback from employees to improve the employee experience.
In this article, we’ll take a look at:
- What a performance review is
- Key performance review phrases you should be using (or use as inspiration for your own)
- Some performance review best practices
Let’s dive in.
What Is A Performance Review?
Before we get into the key phrases to use in performance reviews, let’s make sure we’re on the same track regarding what a performance review is.
"A performance review is a formal assessment in which a manager evaluates an employee’s work performance, identifies strengths and weaknesses, offers feedback, and sets goals for future performance."
Other terms commonly used are performance appraisal, performance evaluation, employee appraisal, or development discussion.
As mentioned in the intro, performance reviews are an opportunity for both parties to give and receive constructive feedback related to employee performance.
The aim is for team members to come away feeling motivated with a clear understanding of where they’re succeeding, areas of improvement, what their priorities are, and what steps they can take to progress.
From a company perspective, it’s a time to assess who their top performers are and help underperforming employees on the path to improvement.
Key Performance Review Phrases
With the above in mind, now we move on to our compendium (don’t get to use that word often) of performance review phrases to have on hand for conducting an effective performance review.
These useful phrases are used to address behaviors and inspire greater performance.
I’ve broken them down into key categories to focus on. This is a suggested list—you don’t have to use these 1:1. Use them as a starting point, or to get inspiration, and go from there.
Also, depending on seniority and role, some of these may vary in their importance when conducting a performance review.
1. Displays the ability to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems.
2. Applies creative thinking with creative solutions to specific tasks.
3. Possesses interpersonal skills for solving problems with others.
4. Is able to come up with multiple solutions when the opportunity arises.
5. Is willing to think up creative ideas for not just their assigned tasks, but helping coworkers with challenges they are tackling.
6. Active participant in team meetings helping others work through problems.
7. Demonstrates strong communication skills with coworkers, managers, customers, and stakeholders.
8. Demonstrates strong interpersonal skills while working with others.
9. Is able to provide constructive feedback to others, and can communicate their thought processes in difficult situations.
10. Is in constant communication with others in regard to timelines and deliverables.
11. Is able to deliver feedback to others in a concise manner.
12. Can communicate clearly and calmly, even when handling difficult customers.
13. Ensures questions and concerns are answered before working on a project.
14. Can break down complex topics into simple, digestible explanations.
15. Takes ownership and pride in their work.
16. Is able to take ownership of a task when something gets off track or mistakes are made.
17. Shows a strong understanding of learning from their mistakes.
18. Gives credit to coworkers who helped them with a specific task or problem
Quality of Work
19. Is able to consistently deliver high-quality work in a timely manner
20. Seeks continuous feedback and constructive criticism to improve their job performance.
21. Has demonstrated helping out a coworker or team with a problem to help deliver a quality end result.
22. Is able to identify their weaknesses in their work and how to address them.
23. Pays attention to detail and works hard to improve work quality.
24. Develops sound strategies to achieve goals without sacrificing the quality of work.
25. Include specific examples of tasks that said employee has achieved since the last performance review.
26. Has met or exceeded set performance goals.
27. Motivated by achievement and strives to break records.
Teamwork and Cooperation
28. Demonstrates strong interpersonal skills when working to come up with solutions.
29. Is quick to welcome new employees to the org and help them get up to speed.
30. Has demonstrated initiative in improving teamwork with their team.
31. Is able to handle difficult conversations with team members and is considerate of the feelings of others.
32. Operates cross-functionally and looks to forge strong working relationships across the org.
33. Is punctual when attending meetings and respects other’s time.
34. Upholds core values and seeks to improve company culture.
35. Appreciates the distinct work style of team members and honors their set boundaries.
36. Considers the interests of the team and works to help the team succeed.
37. Comfortable sharing ideas, resources, and techniques with team members.
Training and development
38. Seeks out training in order to achieve greater understanding to help achieve performance goals.
39. Actively seeks out new projects and assignments with a view of learning new skills.
40. Is able to absorb feedback through training and coaching to improve at their role.
41. Helps others through coaching to help them achieve better job performance.
42. Demonstrates a strong level of leadership.
43. Has an understanding of what their team is working on and can delegate effectively.
44. Gives flexibility to their team in how they want to tackle problems.
45. Does not micromanage employees' tasks and provides them the space to do their best work
46. Is quick to help out their team with any issues that arise.
47. Demonstrates strong communication skills with their team and their own manager(s).
48. Helps keep their team engaged in their work.
49. Is able to give constructive feedback and elicit valuable feedback from direct reports.
50. Leads by example and takes initiative to lead projects.
51. Willing to support juniors and coworkers to get them up to speed.
52. Gets in touch with team members to understand a project’s progress and lends their expertise wherever required.
53. Fosters team building and encourages learning and development.
54. Ensures team members are comfortable asking questions and listens attentively to their queries before responding.
55. Demonstrates strong time management skills.
56. Seeks to continuously improve in all areas of their work.
57. Is able to complete their assigned tasks on time without sacrificing quality work.
58. Is well-organized and formulates plans to use their time efficiently.
59. Respects the time of coworkers and their project deadlines.
Areas For Improvement
60. Can get overwhelmed by outside factors outside of their control.
61. Struggles to communicate what they’re working on with their manager.
62. Interpersonal skills with teammates should be worked on to improve relationships.
63. Would benefit from coaching or mentoring in [X] area.
64. Has a tendency to try and take on too much at once.
65. Would benefit from asking for help if they’re stuck on something rather than trying to go it alone.
66. Would benefit from working on [X] to improve [X].
67. Helps build out the team’s knowledge base by sharing their expertise.
68. Is able to explain subjects and tasks to coworkers in a way that they can easily understand.
69. Has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to bring new solutions or a new outlook to prior problems.
70. Keeps up to date with industry trends to ensure we’re leveraging the latest knowledge and ideas.
71. Shows a strong attention to detail and consistently delivers their work on time and of high quality.
72. Has demonstrated to be a key member of their team and has added great value with their expertise.
73. Has shown initiative and drive to gain more knowledge about their role and further build out their skillset.
74. Consistently exceeds expectations in all aspects of job performance.
75. Can be trusted to complete tasks in a timely matter along with delivering quality work.
76. Has demonstrated consistency with their work output, no matter the task or project.
77. Has demonstrated that they are a reliable team member that others can go to and expect quality results from.
78. Is always quick to follow up and answer correspondence.
79. Is a loyal and valuable part of the team.
80. Has demonstrated the ability to work with minimal supervision.
81. Shows initiative to seek out additional work or tasks to tackle.
82. Is able to take on new challenges outside their comfort zone with no loss of enthusiasm.
83. Has taken an entrepreneurial approach to providing new solutions to problems.
84. Is willing to take on tasks outside their job description.
85. Generally demonstrates a positive attitude towards work.
86. Shows willingness to set goals and works hard to accomplish them.
87. Approaches confrontation calmly and is willing to accept other’s point of view.
88. Bounces back after failure with a positive mindset.
89. Maintains a favorable approach to work and builds genuine relationships with team members.
90. Doesn’t let difficult situations dampen their work ethic and can work well under pressure.
91. Can pivot between tasks and take on new assignments outside their remit.
92. Receptive to trying new ideas and ways of working.
93. Can handle shifting priorities and change focus quickly.
94. Can admit when they’re wrong and are willing to learn from their mistakes.
95. Is always calm in the face of adverse situations.
96. Is happy to collaborate with other departments and take their advice and expertise into account whenever required.
97. Reports to work on time every day and has a history of perfect attendance.
98. Arrives early for meetings, seminars, and workshops.
99. Meets the attendance policies of the organization without fail.
100. Don't take leave without prior information.
101. Reaches the workplace fully prepared for the day.
Performance Review Best Practices
So now we've covered some key performance review phrases, I'll dive into some best practices.
Liz Lockhart goes deep into performance review best practices in her article how to conduct a better performance review.
But here are some brief points to consider to make your performance review an effective and efficient one.
Conduct performance reviews on a more frequent basis
A growing shift in the world of performance reviews is moving them from an annual basis to something more frequent e.g. quarterly reviews.
One notable difference can be issues and concerns that are brought up. A study from Wakefield Research found the following about performance reviews:
Nearly half of employees don’t feel comfortable raising issues with their boss between formal performance reviews, but nearly three-quarters say they’d be more proactive in raising issues or concerns if they received more frequent feedback.
Not only can conducting more frequent performance reviews allow for issues to be caught earlier, it also reduces how daunting they can be by making them in smaller chunks instead of waiting for an annual review.
For a good case study, check out the impact switching to more frequent performance reviews had at Adobe.
Performance reviews are not a one-way street
What should be noted about a quality performance review is that it shouldn’t just be the one conducting the review talking.
It should be a back-and-forth with the said employee to come to a better consensus on what to do moving forward.
Effective performance reviews can only be reached if you’re open to listening and obtaining feedback from employees
By giving constructive feedback, and having an open conversation, the appraisal process will give great insights to help both sides of the table.
You don’t want your performance review to essentially be a checklist that you make your way through.
Towards Better Performance Management
With this, you now have a better understanding of phrases that you can make use of in your performance reviews.
Remember, shoot for something that is clear and concise in its delivery. This isn’t like the report cards you would get back in school which had those short little blurbs that didn’t really give much insight.
If you’re still doing annual reviews, I strongly suggest you consider moving them to a more frequent basis, such as quarterly. You’ll be able to deliver much more effective feedback with shorter timeframes and give less of a chance for things to fall in between the cracks.
For further reading, here are some related articles in regard to performance reviews that we have written:
Here are some related articles in regard to conducting better performance reviews:
- How to optimize performance management in your org
- Best performance management software for continuous feedback
- How to choose the right performance management system for you
- 5 powerful performance review questions to tap your team’s potential
- Best performance management tools
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