Each time you prepare performance review phrases for your quarterly or annual meetings, it might feel daunting, even if you’ve done it many times over. When you have a base from which to work, though, you can approach the task with a bit of confidence.

Not everyone is skilled at putting words to thoughts and actions, especially when it comes to something possibly sensitive, such as a team member’s job performance.

Your role as a manager encompasses several tasks and areas to help your employees and businesses succeed. Performance reviews are only one piece of this puzzle, but they are an important piece that can influence many other areas. The feedback you give during these meetings isn’t meant to exist inside a vacuum. If you are giving constructive criticism and expecting improvement, you should follow up with your team members to make sure that things are moving along. If you decide to alter job responsibilities based on strengths or weaknesses that you’ve noted, you’ll need to offer scaffolding and guidance while the person learns the new ropes.

It’s important, too, that your workplace culture is one of positivity. This happens with passing affirmations, a balance of praise and critique, feedback as a positive and normal interaction, and regular connection that creates relationships. These are all areas of performance management that, when blended, create an efficient, productive workplace.

Review Phrases

Categories for Performance Review Phrases

As you’ve likely realized, there are several general topics that you cover during performance reviews with your team. Within each area, you discuss not only where people are doing well and meeting expectations, but where there are areas for growth. The phrases we give here are generic examples that you should use as ideas to tailor to your unique employees, business needs, and office culture.

Communication and Attitude

Communication is a critical skill in every aspect of business, employment, and management. Even though every human communicates with countless people throughout their lives, many people struggle to do so efficiently.

Communication in the workplace is about more than just saying what you mean and having people understand you. It’s also about more than writing concisely worded correspondence and asking and answering thoughtful questions in presentations. It’s about understanding others’ communication styles and using verbal and non-verbal communication to move conversations along so that projects are successful.

As a manager, the performance review phrases you should focus on when discussing cooperative and communication skills should address how your team member’s skills (or lack thereof) affect their role in the office. Do they actively listen, remember small details, and alter their communication style based on who they’re speaking to or what they are addressing? Does their style deepen or hinder relationships and collaboration? Are they able to provide clear feedback or do people hesitate to work with them because of consistent conflict?

Ponder these phrases and adjust them to your individual team members where appropriate.

  • Contributes to group discussions with thoughtful questions and observations
  • Asks for others’ opinions and offers constructive feedback
  • Directly communicates needs, objectives, and results to members of the team

Success and Achievement

Employment achievement should be directly related to the business’s objectives. When telling an employee what they do well, connect it specifically to their purpose or role in the company. This helps them see why they are a valued team member and it helps you solidify why they deserve certain perks, promotions, or flexibility.

Specifics should always be used, as they help the employees connect to particular projects, assignments, or duties that they are responsible for and then replicate them in the future. Metrics are also powerful tools that can help put successes into real-world examples that benchmark their success in comparison to past years, as well as set goals for the future.

When you’re thinking of ways to encourage your employees in their achievements, try out these performance review phrases as a base from which to work.

  • Improved service/profit margins/contract renewals by X%
  • Garnered profits exceeding last year’s numbers by X amount
  • Created (specific) projects that made inter-office communication more efficient

Collaboration and Teamwork

No matter one’s position in the company, people have to work together and collaborate. Even in a situation where people are leading a smaller team within the business. They have to use leadership skills that influence others to work together efficiently and productively.

Here is an area in which metrics and standards are going to give way to more subjective observations. Even if goals weren’t met exactly, individual situations can be recognized and addressed, knowing that real life sometimes gets in the way of goals set in the past.

Managers should always acknowledge when team members support the group as a whole and help bring about success. They need to know that they are valued; this will bring about continued purpose and motivation in their work.

Try out some of these basic phrases and add in your employees’ specific areas of strength.

  • Fosters a sense of unity amid adversity
  • Helps people work as a team toward a common goal
  • Recognizes strengths in others and encourages them toward success

Innovation and Creativity

Creativity keeps businesses thriving. Staying stagnant is a sure-fire way for a business to fall behind its competition and be seen as stale and outdated. No matter how strong a business is, the world and customers are always evolving.

Employees who are always thinking about creative solutions and new ways to market, compete. And organize are going to overcome obstacles with much more productivity, leadership, and positivity than those who get stuck in a rut or a linear way of thinking.

Hopefully, you have plenty of employees who help bring creativity to the team. Make sure that you recognize their efforts by implementing some of these into your review.

  • Turns ideas into applicable solutions
  • Understands the balance between risk management and convention
  • Solved the continuous problem of X by implementing Y

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

In every business, in every industry, problems continue to arise—even in businesses that are decades old. Whether it’s financial struggles, operations, sales problems, or production, people not only need to be motivated to solve their own problems but to be able to work with others to fix larger problems for the entire business.

Think about some of these performance review phrases for encouraging your problem-solving employees.

  • Approaches obstacles with a positive mindset
  • Solves problems with sustainable solutions
  • Recognizes and circumvents potential issues

Adaptability and Flexibility Amidst Change

When business needs or operations change (and they always do), recognizing how people push on and show resilience in the face of adversity encourages them to continue doing so when an uphill struggle presents again.

Flexibility and being open to change are vital to continuing in a position year after year. None of us should ever be done learning and growing (even in a position of management).

Employees who are willing to roll with the punches and choose a positive attitude when the going gets rough should be celebrated. Encourage them with some of these nuggets.

  • Views change as an opportunity for learning
  • Keeps calm and composed when in stressful situations
  • Leads their team with positivity amidst struggle

Performance Review Phrases to Stay Away From

Recognizing your team members comes across with more power and memorable takeaways if you avoid certain types of communication.

Vague, Indirect Verbiage

Think about vague language as a type of word filling—it’s pointless and makes you seem unprofessional. Remember the phrase from the Disney classic Bambi, where Thumper says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Well, you might have to say some things that aren’t so nice, but if you don’t have anything concrete to say, then you should skip over the topic altogether.

Absolute Language

It’s never a good idea to use the word ‘never’ in a performance review; you should always stay away from absolutes such as ‘always.’ Okay, but in all reality, always and never are rarely true and they create defensiveness—especially if you are using them to critique an employee on what might already be a sensitive topic.

Brand-New Information

Part of your job as a manager is to maintain open lines of communication with your entire team. Their performance reviews should not be the first time that they are hearing particular feedback, especially if it’s criticism. If you have noticed something that needs improvement, make a point to discuss it in detail well before a review meeting so that your employee has time to work on it before their review.


Remember that you aren’t alone in needing help to write performance review phrases that will come across with the tone you’re looking for. A performance review is a necessary step to communicating employment roles and responsibilities, acknowledging success.

The planning steps for improvement with team members and the company as a whole. When you approach the meetings with the mindset of wanting to guide your employees and benefit the business, that will come across as encouraging and supportive.