56 Performance Review Phrases (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar
Jan. 15, 2023

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Summary. Performance reviews are a great opportunity to give an employee feedback on their poor performance to help them improve, or to give them recognition for a job well done. Common performance review skill categories that are reviewed include productivity, work quality, and attendance. The right phrases said in a performance review goes a long way to motive an employee to continue their good performance, or improve on weaknesses.

Performance reviews are an effective way to recognize employees’ good work and address any weaknesses they may have. However, it can be difficult to know what to talk about and how to talk about it as a boss.

To help with this, in this article you’ll find some ideas for topics to discuss and examples of phrases you can use in your next performance reviews.

Key Takeaways

  • Annual Performance reviews are a good opportunity to talk about employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and growth, as well as to discuss training opportunities, goals, and any pay adjustments.

  • It’s a good idea to discuss employees’ productivity and work quality as well as their soft skills such cooperation, accountability, and communication.

  • Give your employees plenty of notice about their performance review and then prepare for it by looking at their job description and KPIs and making a rubric based on those.

Performance Review Phrases

What Is a Performance Review?

Performance reviews are evaluations where supervisors appraise an employee’s performance at work.

The main topics that are commonly discussed during the appraisal process are:

  • Strengths and weaknesses. Employees are made aware of the areas in which they excel or underperform. This is an opportunity to define performance expectations clearly.

  • Employee progress. If a particular weakness was identified in a previous performance review, supervisors should comment on whether the employee has taken the necessary actions to fix it.

  • Training opportunities. Managers may suggest career development resources or certification programs that fit the employee’s situation.

    This is a great way to align the interests of the company with the employee’s. The worker develops skills to create value for the business while adding something to their resume.

  • Future goals. Employees and supervisors will often agree to an improvement plan to address weaknesses. Whether the employee met these goals and objectives can be assessed during the next performance appraisal.

  • Pay adjustments. Performance reviews are also an opportunity to give employees promotions or raises.

Performance evaluations are conducted on a regular basis that’s determined by the organization or team. These periods are typically six months apart but can also be quarterly, monthly, or even more frequent.

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Common Performance Review Skills

When discussing an employee’s strengths and weaknesses, employers usually comment on several key skill categories:

  1. Productivity

  2. Work quality

  3. Attendance

  4. Punctuality

  5. Accountability

  6. Communication

  7. Cooperation

  8. Interpersonal abilities

  9. Adaptability

  10. Problem-solving

  11. Exceptional achievement

  12. Leadership

  13. Innovation

  14. Attitude

Being specific about the areas in which a particular employee excels or lacks helps them identify what behaviors to continue performing and which to improve upon.

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Examples of Performance Review Phrases

Employees are often sensitive to feedback given during annual performance reviews, so it’s essential to pay attention to wording when providing praise and constructive criticism.

Even if you don’t mean it that way, workers who feel under-recognized for their achievements or unfairly criticized are more likely to quit the team.

The right phrasing goes a long way towards motivating employees to continue performing well or improving their weaknesses.

Here are some effective phrases to use during performance reviews, organized by their corresponding skill category.

  1. Productivity. Productive employees often display a number of other skills, such as time-management, work ethic, and organizational ability.

    Some workers are perfectly content with contributing the bare minimum and collecting a wage. Those that consistently strive to produce value should be recognized for it.

    • “Always manages their time well and is extremely well-organized.”

    • “Displays endless drive to improve productivity, profits, and meet business goals.”

    • “Your excellent work ethic speaks for itself.”

    • “Consistently contributes measurable value to company goals and projects.”

  2. Work quality. Team members who regularly deliver high-quality results should be commended for their competence, as well as their drive to maintain consistency.

    • “Positively contributes to the performance of the team through their high-quality work.”

    • “Can be relied upon to consistently maintain a high quality of work.”

    • “I was blown away by the quality of your work.”

    • “Most employees aren’t as thorough in their work as you.”

  3. Attendance. An employee who always shows up on time is reliable and demonstrates that they respect others’ time.

    • “Begins every day fully prepared and ready to work.”

    • “Shows respect for the time of others by always coming to work on time.”

    • “A reliable worker who is always there when you need their help.”

  4. Punctuality. Punctual workers consistently meet deadlines and deliver items exactly when promised.

    • “Always follows through on their promises and delivers work ahead of time.”

    • “Consistently meets deadlines and can always be relied upon.”

    • “You’re among the most reliable workers I’ve ever had.”

    • “I really respect how you always take your promises seriously.”

  5. Accountability. Every professional makes mistakes sometimes. It can be difficult for employees to publicly accept accountability for fear of disciplinary action, so workers who actually take this step should be commended for it.

    • “Shows honesty and strong character by accepting accountability when appropriate.”

    • “Strives to constantly improve on their work and is never satisfied with less-than-perfect results.”

    • “Your honesty and prioritization of the team ahead of all else are inspiring.”

  6. Communication. Effective communicators are able to convey complex ideas. They also always make sure to update team members whenever their situation changes.

    • “Is mindful of the team and provides any updates when their situation changes.”

    • “Is able to effectively break down complex ideas and bring everyone on board.”

    • “Has a way of explaining complicated subjects to anyone.”

    • Thank you for always speaking up during team meetings and providing important updates.”

    • “You’re always quick to answer and follow up on emails.”

  7. Cooperation. Cooperative employees can get along with others despite differences in personalities and mindsets. They also encourage a cohesive team atmosphere and resolve differences between others.

    • “Extremely easy to work with and respects all team members.”

    • “Always puts the team first and adapts to any situation.”

    • “Improves team atmosphere by resolving conflicts between others.”

    • “Everyone tells me they really enjoy working with you.”

  8. Interpersonal abilities. Some team members are not only cooperative, but strive to create strong working relationships with others. They’re able to brighten the team atmosphere and raise morale under challenging situations.

    • “Has a pleasant personality that contributes to a positive team environment.”

    • “Maintains positivity and raises team morale during challenge circumstances.”

    • “Is thoughtful of other team members and is always pleasant to work with.”

    • “You always know how to cheer everyone up.”

  9. Adaptability. Adaptable team members are emotionally and practically flexible when situations change. They not only know how to adapt to changing circumstances, but are understanding and perfectly willing to do so.

    • “Is extremely understanding and flexible when unforeseen circumstances arise.”

    • “Can be counted on to be a team-player during less than ideal situations.”

    • “Is able to quickly find ways to contribute when factors that influence business operations change.”

    • “I want to thank you for how flexible you’ve been during this difficult period.”

  10. Problem-solving. Problem solvers are workers who other staff-members turn to when a challenge stumps them. Compliment their expertise, as well as their willingness to help the team.

    • “Demonstrates expertise and critical-thinking skills by cleverly finding solutions to problems.”

    • “Is always a reliable source of help for employees who need assistance.”

    • “You’re able to overcome any obstacle that stands in your path.”

    • “Is there anything you can’t do?”

  11. Exceptional achievement. You should always take note of employees who go above and beyond expectations. Showing that their efforts are recognized and appreciated is a great way to encourage further overachievement.

    • “Always surprises the entire team with the exceptional quality of their work.”

    • “Is constantly looked up to by staff members for their exceptional abilities.”

    • “You’re one of the most uniquely skilled professionals I’ve ever worked with.”

    • “You never fail to break records that we all thought were unbreakable.”

  12. Leadership. You’ll sometimes encounter employees who not only directly contribute value, but are able to positively influence, motivate, and coach other team members.

    Effective leaders are uncommon and should be encouraged so that they continue to bring exceptional value to your business.

    • “Improves the job performance of the entire team by leading by example.”

    • “It’s extremely commendable how you always bring new employees up to speed.”

    • “Not only delivers high-quality work, but strengthens the entire culture of the team.”

    • “Having you on the team makes a massive difference.”

    • “Calling you anything but a team leader would be selling you short.”

  13. Innovation. Innovative employees demonstrate creativity and are able to contribute unique solutions to problems. They’re the team members who not only improve on current company processes, but often think of entirely new ways to do things.

    • “You always bring a unique perspective that nobody else had thought of.”

    • “It’s admirable how you’re able to view the same situation in a completely new light.”

    • “Wow, nobody knew it was even possible to do it in a better way until you showed us.”

    • “You come up with amazing ideas.”

  14. Attitude. Nobody wants to work with negative team members, even if they’re highly competent and useful. Positive team members, on the other hand, improve the performance of everyone.

    • “Everyone appreciates your upbeat attitude.”

    • “Even when things are tough, you continue to maintain a positive mindset.”

    • “You’re always quick to offer a healthy perspective.”

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Examples of Negative Performance Review Phrases

While you should always tell your employees something positive during their performance review, often you’ll need to address some weak spots during these meetings or on official reports as well. Here are some phrases you can use when you find yourself in this situation:

  1. “I want our team to be known for respecting others, and when you arrive late to meetings, it’s disrespectful.”

  2. “You do excellent work, and I think you’d do even better if you didn’t let the pressure get the better of you in stressful situations. You’re a very capable employee, and I hate to see you lose your confidence in those times. How can I help you with that?”

  3. “Your customer satisfaction reviews are always really high on the phone, but they aren’t as great after you meet with a client in person. Why do you think that is? What training or resources can we get you to help with that?”

  4. “You’re very skilled in what you do, but I’ve noticed you haven’t joined any of the new projects our team has taken on. You have a lot to offer, and I’d love to see you stretch yourself and take on some of these new responsibilities and challenges.”

  5. “I respect and appreciate your ability to be honest and direct with everyone, but sometimes it comes across as unfriendly or even rude. I’d hate to see that hinder your ability to create strong working relationships, so I’d like you to take this course in office communication to help you get your points across more effectively.”

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How to Prepare for the Performance Review

  1. Update job descriptions. Employees appreciate clarity in the way their role is defined, and from an organizational standpoint, delineating roles clearly is an important element of planning. You can even have employees help with this process to make sure the written word matches the actual job.

    Plus, it’s not really fair to evaluate someone without having a clear set of guidelines on how their performance will be judged.

  2. Determine the purpose of the role. With the above point in mind, it’s also crucial to understand why the position exists in the first place. Is the reason you created the role still the primary function or has the need for that responsibility passed?

    Figuring out organizational needs and then working to determine how each employee contributes to those can be a good approach. Be sure to gather employee’s opinions on where they feel their time is best spent.

  3. Recalibrate your KPIs. Again, most employees appreciate concrete goals. But those goals and the ability to replicate them infinitely are not static. Maybe a goal of 100 cold calls a week no longer makes sense when you’ve already reached out to most of the local businesses you could serve, for example.

    Again, this is not something that managers should hand down from on high. Instead, it’s important to think about how you want to frame discussions about what metrics matter and why, and then get employee feedback to figure out the details.

  4. Identify skill gaps. Sometimes, skill gaps can creep on you and your business. With how fast technology changes in today’s world, you need to constantly reevaluate the skill sets of your employees and lend a hand when they need it.

    While it’s essential to train employees in areas that will directly benefit the company, you should also consider wiggle room for less obviously applicable, but more thought-provoking, educational experiences your employees are interested in. A change in perspective can be just as beneficial as a technical upskill.

  5. Make a rubric. Or familiarize yourself with the one provided by your company. It’s good to have a plan for what topics you want to cover and in what order. It might also make sense to change the order of events for certain employees.

    Employees appreciate a thorough but straightforward evaluation that they can take something meaningful away from.

  6. Inform employees in advance. It’s best to give at least a week’s notice before performance reviews, but more or less time could make sense depending on the nature and size of your organization. You want to give everyone a chance to consider what they want to discuss at the meeting and prepare responses to questions they know will come up.

    If you can give more details about the meeting (duration, time, location, etc.), do. It’s nice knowing exactly what to expect for at least one element of your performance review.

Take the Guesswork Out of Performance Reviews

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Performance Review FAQ

  1. What should I say in a performance review?

    You should say both positive observations and constructive criticisms to your employee in a performance review. It’s important to let employees know the good things you’ve seen them doing in addition to calling out their weak points, and don’t forget to provide resources and support on how to improve those weak points.

    If you’re the employee in the performance review, talk about how you’ve grown, projects you’re proud of, and areas you’d like to grow in in the future. You can also ask questions about professional development opportunities and talk about what your boss could provide that would help you be more effective at your job.

  2. How do you write an impactful performance review phrase?

    You write an impactful performance review phrase by being specific and using quantifiers. Saying that an employee is “always positive even in the most stressful situations” is far more impactful than just saying, “they have a good attitude.”

    The first phrase alludes to a specific situation, which makes it more personal and meaningful.

  3. What should I say in my boss review?

    You should say positive things in your boss review. Even if you have some negative things to say, they’ll go over far better if you include honest positive feedback as well.

    Say things like, “I appreciate your willingness to answer my questions,” or “Your positive attitude and example of hard work motivate me to tackle my projects with more enthusiasm.” These are specific, personal compliments that will carry a lot of weight, even if you add in something negative as well.

  4. Are performance reviews important?

    Yes, performance reviews can be important because it’s a way to give both the company and employees important feedback. Without feedback, whether positive or negative, managers and employees are not able to improve their skills. Without feedback, someone may be unaware of their poor performance and not be able to change it. It’s also a great opportunity for employers to highlight and give recognition to a job well done.

Final Thoughts

Effective performance reviews are critical for maximizing employee engagement. Simply recognizing a subordinate’s efforts and delicately addressing their weaknesses can significantly improve the value they bring to your business.

In addition to the example performance review phrases we’ve given you, think of other ways you can sincerely show appreciation to your employees. They’ll be sure to return that appreciation and continue their positive behavior.


  1. Indeed – What to Say in a Performance Review

  2. MyHR – Why Performance Reviews are Important

Take the Guesswork Out of Performance Reviews

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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