The Performance Review Phrases are delicate and highly personal for those on the receiving end, but managers can improve their ability to deliver an effective review by learning the correct performance review phrases.

A Guide to Effective Performance Review Phrases

When reviewing their employees, managers need to be aware that their words can have a significant effect on how the employee sees themselves, as well as how much the employee respects the company. Performance review phrases make all the difference in how the information will be received by the employee.

Managers have the hard task of striking a balance in a performance review – they must highlight an employee’s strengths and successes, while still being sensitive in their approach to identify weaknesses and provide constructive feedback on tasks on which the employee may be underperforming.

As an old saying goes, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”, this has never been truer than in the case of performance reviews. Yet, most managers will agree, that there’s no college course or training which can truly prepare you to complete a productive performance review that is received well by the employee. It’s all about striking that delicate balance, one that can take new managers years to perfect.

Luckily, we have some tips and tricks to get you started on effective and precise performance review phrasing. Whether you are new to the management game, or a seasoned vet, you will find these tips refreshing. Hopefully, they can help you conduct smoother and more effective performance reviews this time around!

A Note on Performance Reviews 

Before we dig into examples of feedback a manager may give in a performance review, it’s important to understand the basic cultural components that make performance reviews effective in any given workplace.

If the company is only reviewing employees once per year, and not implementing any other performance management strategies, a performance review may be poorly received no matter how hard the manager tries to perfect their performance review phrasing.

In a company that practices valuable performance management strategies, like weekly employee & manager check-ins, regular praise and celebration of successes, continued feedback on ongoing projects throughout the year, and a general culture of open two-way feedback, employee reviews are likely to be much better received.

When employees receive consistent feedback, praise, and one on one conversations with their manager throughout the year, they better know what to expect from their yearly review. They will have a better understanding of what their manager wants from them, and therefore, will be able to speak to the feedback they have received and how they have improved upon it, at their annual review.

A company that does not focus on performance management strategies and attempts to conduct yearly reviews may be unpleasantly surprised at its results. Employees who do not feel their manager cares about their work (due to a lack of continuous feedback, check-ins, and conversations) will find it hard to take a manager’s feedback seriously in an annual review. Or they may be extra sensitive to their manager’s feedback, due to a lack of trust in the relationship.

So first and foremost, to have a successful performance review season, management should be focused on building a stronger culture of continuous feedback and support from management to subordinates. Without these foundations, not only will performance reviews be ineffective, but employee development will suffer greatly.

Common Categories of Employee Performance and Performance Review Phrases

Below, we will highlight some common areas an employee may need to be rated on in their yearly review. Some of these categories may be broad, such as communication skills, which can leave managers searching for the right words or examples to appropriately review their employee’s performance in the area.

Before beginning to write out your employee’s performance reviews, take a pause. If you are a new manager, try to see if you can find each employee’s review from the previous year. This way, you have a resource to assess where they were a year ago and compare that to see if they’ve made any big changes this year. If you are managing this person for the first time, you may see their skills as subpar – but if you knew them a year ago, you’d know their skills are far better than what they used to be. Feedback is subjective, and depends on the individual and their journey, so context is always very important.

Even if you have been managing your team for a while, it’s always a good idea to look through past reviews. Sometimes it can be hard to remember how far a person has come from two or three years prior. It also gives you a chance to see if your employees are regressing in any areas.

Below, we will highlight some common areas you may be asked to rate your employees in, as well as effective performance review phrases you can use to keep the annual review respectful, engaging, and productive.

Performance Review Phrases

Positive Performance Review Phrases on Communication
  • Your clear and precise communication style is easily digested and appreciated by colleagues.
  • You have efficient communication skills and can collaborate, establishing connections within your department and beyond.
  • You change your communication style depending on your audience and always try to deliver a message to someone in a way that will make the most sense to them and their role.
  • Your effective communication style helps avoid conflict and is a dependable tool to solve conflicts when they arise.
  • Your empathetic and clear communication style is well received by clients/customers, which strengthens their trust in our business.

Needs Improvement Performance Review Phrases on Communication

  • Your communication style has been at times hard for colleagues to understand, leading to conflict and misunderstandings.
  • There have been times when you dove into a project you were uncomfortable with, without asking for help or asking colleagues the appropriate questions first, leading to misunderstandings and time loss.
  • You have a diverse and complicated vocabulary, which is great, but it would help you to learn when to choose more simplified words to get your point across in a more effective manner.
  • Communication style, both written and verbal, is an area of opportunity for you. What can we do to improve upon these skills together?

Time Management – Performance Review Phrases

Positive Performance Review Phrases on Time Management 

  • You are always on time for meetings, commitments, and other events. We appreciate your dependability.
  • You are dependable when it comes to delivering work promptly.
  • You are proficient in managing multiple deadlines, putting the greater good of the company ahead of your to-do list.
  • You have shown an ability to effectively multitask without losing track of deadlines or delivering work too late.

Needs Improvement Performance Review Phrases on Time Management 

  • At times, you have been unable to deliver on deadlines you previously accepted.
  • You are frequently late to meetings, commitments, and other events, which hurts the company’s ability to effectively operate overall.
  • You have shown difficulty managing your tasks and prioritizing the appropriate projects.
  • You would benefit from some training on time-management skills. I would like to help you get set up with these resources, so you can improve in this area.

Teamwork– Performance Review Phrases

Positive Performance Review Phrases on Teamwork 

  • You can collaborate with an array of colleagues and personalities without difficulty.
  • We appreciate your flexibility and willingness to cover team members when they are gone or stepping in to work extra hours when we were short-staffed. Your ability to adapt shows you care about the team.
  • Your cross-collaborative skills and ability to delegate tasks to appropriate team members in a timely fashion are deeply appreciated by the company.

Needs Improvement Performance Review Phrases on Teamwork

  • You are strong as an individual contributor, but often struggle to successfully collaborate with others on a team project.
  • You show a lack of motivation when asked to collaborate with others, often trying to complete tasks that need collaboration with no help.
  • Your unwillingness to collaborate with team members has caused miscommunications and missed deadlines.
  • I would love to help you feel more comfortable with being a productive member of team projects. What can we do to improve your teamwork skills?

Leadership – Performance Review Phrases

Positive Performance Review Phrases on Leadership

  • The strides your team has made under your leadership have not gone unnoticed. We have noticed significant improvements in (metric here) and (metric here), since you stepped in, and we’d like to thank you for this.
  • You successfully led your team through an unexpected transition, which is not an easy task, but you have shown great strength in doing so.
  • Your ability to handle conflict and employee concerns with a calm and level-headed demeanor is impressive.

Needs Improvement Performance Review Phrases on Leadership

  • We’ve noticed several employees in your team showing signs of disengagement. Can we improve upon your leadership skills to help employees get excited about their work again?
  • Your leadership style has been ill-received by some members of your team, leading to miscommunication and dissatisfaction within the team.
  • You’ve shown a tendency toward micromanagement, which we avoid in our culture.
  • It would benefit you to enroll in some leadership training or mentoring courses. Can I help you find the right resources?

Bottom Line

Performance reviews are an important factor in making employees feel valued and giving them the tools they need to grow in their careers. However, performance reviews can be sensitive, as employees correlate their work with their value. It’s always important to tailor the review to the specific employee and the context of their journey.

Furthermore, it’s always important to offer compliments and praise alongside constructive criticism. No employee wants to hear everything they have shown deficiencies in, but especially not if their manager can’t appreciate the categories that they excel in. Be prepared to give credit where it’s due and use it as a cushion between harder conversations about weaknesses.

By following our examples for having a constructive performance review, and using the right performance review phrasing, you can be sure your performance reviews will be more effective than ever this time around!

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