Yes, annual performance reviews are a stressful time for employees, but have you ever stopped to think about it from a manager’s perspective? They’re no walk in the park for supervisors either. If you’re a supervisor, you know that giving constructive feedback requires the right blend of criticism and support. Get that wrong, and you might just alienate your workforce. We will try to give you some annual performance review examples to help you conduct the most effective reviews you need.

To help you get through the next performance review season, we’ve come up with a few annual performance review examples of how to effectively communicate what your business is looking for without creating an office of defensive and discouraged employees.

Annual Performance Review Examples

What’s the Issue Here?

We like to think of our offices and places of employment as a family, or at least a place where everyone feels included. Therefore, when it comes time to pass down annual performance reviews, things can get a little awkward. It’s easy to praise your employees for their success, but what happens when you have to tell a friendly co-worker that they’ve failed in some aspect of their job? How can you deliver this news without triggering the employee’s instinct to get defensive?

Let’s face it, no one likes getting negative feedback. This problem is the number one reason why so many employees describe annual performance reviews as their least favorite time of the year. At least a third of employees believe that the process is outdated, and nearly half believe reviews are biased. So, how can we go about rectifying these issues?

While many companies have turned to regular, continuous feedback methods, annual performance reviews are still needed to provide a yearly assessment of how an employee has grown. They’re also crucial to determining who is eligible for a raise or promotion. Getting rid of annual performance reviews entirely isn’t the answer. Instead, it’s time we improve the process.

Sorry, But Why Do We Need Reviews?

Every company is different, but most use some sort of review process to evaluate how their employees perform. Businesses have set goals that they want to achieve before the end of the year, and an annual performance review is a chance for supervisors to come together with their employees, one-on-one, to discuss how an employee can directly help the business reach its goals.

Performance reviews typically evaluate employee’s past performance based on the impact and quality of their work, their ability to meet deadlines, their team and communication skills, creativity and leadership abilities, and other job-specific traits. Supervisors then give employees feedback on how they can continue to develop these skills

Keeping it Constructive

If the main problem with your annual performance review process is that employees walk away feeling attacked, maybe it’s time to reconsider how you’re giving feedback. Being clear and to the point is a great place to start, but remember to frame your feedback as guidance, not a tirade. Let’s look at a couple of ineffective annual performance review examples and talk about how they can be improved:

Negative Feedback

“John is always late to work after work and never turns in his assignments on time.”

First off, let’s talk about the tone here. The odds are, John wasn’t always late to work, and he probably didn’t miss every deadline. If he did, he probably wouldn’t be sitting for a performance review. Phrasing your negative feedback as hyperbole feels more like an attack, and it doesn’t tell John anything about how he can improve. Consider phrasing this comment more in this manner:

“John should be more attentive to his time management skills by remembering the limits of his lunch break and setting reminders for project deadlines.”

This tells John that he’s performed poorly when it comes to time management, but it also tells him how he can grow.

Positive Feedback

“Jane has performed well throughout the last quarter.”

This sort of comment is pretty typical on annual performance reviews. You may have even written it yourself. But stop and think what this says to Jane when she reads it—pretty much nothing. If the purpose of a performance review is to motivate employees and highlight their strengths, you need to highlight their strengths. Instead of merely stating that “Jane performed well,” give examples of how she performed well:

“Jane takes an active role in your team’s project, leading to a faster turnaround rate.”

This celebrates Jane’s teamwork and leadership skills and tells her she should continue to do so.

The Three Types of Employees

You can likely break down your employees into one of three categories, and you should consider how to phrase your feedback relative to each type.

1. Underperforming Employees

When it comes to underperformers, you’ll likely have a lot of negative feedback to give. Be gentle. We recommend not sugar coating anything but also to look at negatives from all sides. Every situation has two sides, so if you can find the silver lining behind an employee’s failures, you can present your feedback as a “feedback sandwich”. This means stuffing the negative between a few positives.

2. Average Employees

Your average employees are usually the easiest group to review objctively. You can typically identify a few areas where they have succeeded but also a few areas where they need improvement. Work collaboratively with the employee to highlight their strengths and really encourage them to continue growing in those directions. Wherever they’ve struggled, work with the employee to develop new expectations that guide them to the right track.

3. The Superhero Employee

You might think these employees would be easy to review, but you’d be surprised that it isn’t. High-performing employees usually know they perform well and can come in with a bit of an ego. Definitely celebrate their successes but also do your best to treat them as equally as an underperformer. Everyone has room to grow, and a top-performer is no different. Take the time to assess their performance and find those small weak spots where they too can improve.


If you’re a supervisor who struggles to make it through the annual performance review season, know that you’re not alone. It’s not easy giving negative feedback to people who you work with every day. If you follow these annual performance review examples and stick to a constructive, rather than aggressive tone, it will help take much of the sting out of your reviews and help guide employees to a brighter future. Download the ebook, “The Skeptics Guide to Performance Management and get started on improving your performance management process.