100-performance-review-phrases

Category: Performance Management.

100 Performance Review Phrases and Comments for 2021Download PDF Here

As a manager, it’s important never to be lost for words during a performance review.

Reviews can be a daunting task for everyone involved. Employees might feel like their behavior and personality are being put on trial. Meanwhile, managers might struggle to give feedback that addresses the areas in need of improvement while also balancing coming across as constructive and positive.

Overall, common performance review phrases might seem like a cookie-cutter approach to performance conversations. However, knowing what to say and how best to phrase your feedback can make a significant difference in how your employees react in the moment and in their future performance.

How to Use Performance Review Phrases

In order to conduct an impactful performance review, managers need to strive to make feedback individualized. Therefore, it might seem counterintuitive to use the performance review comments examples during this process.

That’s why it’s important to understand that these phrases and comments are a great source of inspiration, but they shouldn’t replace comments that are specific to an employee. A generic performance review conversation can leave your employees feeling like you don’t care enough to put in the time and effort into their development, which can be just as harmful to their performance as saying the wrong thing or being too negative in your review.

With that being said, there is a time and a place for generic comments, particularly if you’re working with processes that can be measured numerically or with a simple yes or no. The important part here is to ensure that even in these cases, you can quantify these phrases with individualized comments if you need to.

Using Generic Performance Review Comments: An Example

So, as an example, when you’re talking about attendance, a generic performance review comment might be:

“Jane has used more than her allotted sick days in this review period”.

While this is a simple yes/no question, it doesn’t say much about the reason for Jane’s absence. After all, every manager knows there’s a stark difference between an employee that has to go to the hospital regularly and no-call-no-shows.

That’s why you should make a note underneath this comment documenting the reasons why Jane needed those sick days, and whether it’s something that needs to be addressed in this performance review period.

Performance Review Phrases for Specific Areas of Performance

To make things easier for you, this article has grouped phrases and comments for performance conversations based on the specific areas they are relevant to. While every good performance management review should have a standard format that follows key areas, it’s not surprising that most businesses structure their performance reviews differently.

However, every performance review conversation should cover the following key areas, which is why this article is focusing on those in terms of the best phrases and comments to use.

Key areas for Performance Review

That’s not to say that there aren’t other areas that your business may choose to focus on, however, these areas are the most commonly discussed in performance review comments examples.

Setting Your Performance Review Up for Success

With all of this in mind, it is important to note that knowing the best performance conversation phrases and comments aren’t automatically going to have the intended effect on your employees. However, noted social psychologist Robert Cialdini coined the phrase “Pre-suasion” to describe a phenomenon where you can set your employee up for the tone of their performance review by using certain words, phrases, and expressions that associate with how you want them to conceptualize the rest of the meeting.

For example, if you’re conducting a performance review where you want to emphasize your employee’s performance in a certain area, then you would start the meeting by using phrases like “successful”, “admirable”, “impressive”, or “achievement”.

This can be particularly useful in a situation where an employee has performed well in certain areas, but you need to discuss where they can improve in others. The “no sandwich” technique – in which you present a negative surrounded by two positives – can work brilliantly with this method, as it will help you to highlight their strengths and make them feel more confident that they can improve on their weaknesses.

Performance Review Phrases and Comments to Avoid

When you’re using these phrases and performance review examples, you can’t assume that they will be 100% effective simply because they’re recommended. As this article mentioned earlier, you have to set yourself up for success, which also means understanding what comments you need to avoid for an effective performance review. While this can vary from business to business, the following list will help you to steer your performance review in the right direction.

Cliché Phrases

Just as you don’t want to see candidates including “good team player” and “a clear communicator” on their resumé, using cliché phrases during your performance review tells your employee that you don’t care enough about their development to spend more than a few minutes preparing for their performance review meeting.

You should avoid using cliché phrases wherever possible because they don’t say anything about an employee’s performance. You might think that David is a good team player, but what, specifically, makes him a good team player? Does he collaborate well with the team, come up with good ideas, or does he have a great personality that helps keep everyone happy and upbeat?

If you don’t know why David is a good team player, then you can’t expect David to know either. That’s why cliché phrases should be avoided wherever possible in favor of more specific comments like “David is a great influence on his team and helps to keep everyone motivated”.

Passive Voice

This is a trickier one to get in the habit of, particularly because you probably don’t realize that you’re using the passive voice in the first place. If you’re not sure what the passive voice is, here are some examples:

Active Voice: “David played football”

Passive Voice: “Football was played by David”

When you use the active voice, you’re saying that the person you’re talking about performed an action, and you’re centering the person. However, with the passive voice, you’re saying that the action was performed by that person, and you’re making the sentence about the action.

Here are some examples of active vs. passive voice in the quality of work performance review phrases:

Active Voice: “Lea saved the company $200,000 by identifying inefficiencies in the payroll system”

Passive Voice: “$200,000 was saved by Lea identifying inefficiencies in the payroll system”

To avoid the passive voice, you need to give feedback by centering your employee in the language that you use. In the first example, you’re clear that it’s Lea that directly saved the company money, but when you use the passive voice, you’re only suggesting that Lea had some contribution to the process.

By ensuring that you use the active voice, you’re conveying through your language that you recognize the importance of your employee to a specific action, and you’re giving them credit for that certain action happening in the workplace. In addition, you’re also communicating that they’re an active member of the team and not simply a cog that responds to workplace events.

Comparisons

No-one likes being compared to someone else, particularly in a manner in which they’re made to feel lesser or unimportant. While you might think that comparing your employee to a model team member or a coworker in a similar situation might be helpful, the results can harm not only productivity, but also morale, confidence, and mental health.

In the modern workplace, managers need to take care to promote individuality and understand that each of their team members will take different paths to achieve their goals and to complete tasks. You must also remember that you don’t understand everything that’s going on in your employees’ lives. One employee might be a high achiever, but they could be at risk of burnout, while another is slower to hand in work but has a higher rate of accuracy and attention to detail.

Comparing employees to their colleagues also breeds unhealthy competition in the workplace. While healthy competition can help to promote productivity and even collaboration, unfairly comparing one employee to another can create rifts in teams and even promote taking shortcuts on tasks to get ahead.

With that in mind, you need to be aware that negative performance review phrases – that is, phrases that are construed as solely negative by the employee – often feature these comparisons. Regardless of whether your intentions are good, you should take care to focus only on the employee whose performance you’re reviewing, and not mention the performance of their colleagues.

Top Performance Review Phrases and Comments for 2021

Now that you know what the best practices are for performance reviews and key things to avoid, the following examples will help you to better understand how to conduct an effective performance conversation with your employees.

In the following section, this article will cover both positive and needs improvement performance review phrases for each key skill. You’ve already seen some negative performance review examples above, and psychologists recommend that you reframe “negative” into “needs improvement” so your employees aren’t demoralized by these comments and poor performance review examples.

If you want to grab the following examples and save them for later use, you can download our effective phrases for performance appraisals pdf here.

Achievements

Recognizing an employee’s achievements is a proven way to help reduce employee turnover, particularly within the first six months of employment. Not only that, but 69% of employees say they’d work harder if they felt that they were more appreciated at work, meaning recognizing your employees’ achievements can help your team become more profitable and productive.

Positive Phrases

  1. Saved the company $x through [specific task]
  2. Spearheaded [project] which resulted in [result]
  3. Used own initiative and suggested [project] which aims to [goal]
  4. Improved process x by y%
  5. Exceeded monthly quota by x%

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Missed quota by x%
  2. Missed previously set target of [target] because of [reason]
  3. Needs further training in [process] because of [reason]
  4. Did not complete [task] because of [reason]
  5. Reduced quality of work output because of [reason].

Productivity

According to Gallup, 85% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, which results in an estimated $7 trillion loss of productivity each year. However, recognizing an employee’s work through regular performance reviews can lead to employees being 4.6 times more likely to perform at their peak.

Positive Phrases

  1. Consistently turns work in ahead of schedule
  2. Has contributed to the success of the department by [example]
  3. Demonstrated strong time management skills by [example]
  4. Significantly improved on [goal] since the last performance review
  5. Demonstrated excellent task flexibility by [example]

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Did not hand in [task] on time due to [reason]
  2. Has made little progress with [goal] since the last performance review
  3. Will often sacrifice handing in work by deadline to help coworkers
  4. Has shown reluctance to work towards [goal]/[task]
  5. Continuously asks for longer deadlines

Teamwork and Collaboration

75% of employers rate teamwork as being extremely important in the workplace, particularly as research shows that strong workplace communities have the power to reduce employee turnover and improve internal communication. With that in mind, performance review phrases for teamwork are important to note, but as mentioned earlier, you have to be wary of comparing your employee to their coworkers.

Positive Phrases

  1. Displayed a strong drive to collaborate during [task]
  2. Encourages every member of the team to share their ideas in meetings
  3. Is willing to share their expertise with colleagues to improve their performance
  4. Demonstrated the ability to delegate tasks fairly during [project]
  5. Shared ideas on how to improve the inclusiveness of our workplace culture

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Other team members have felt alienated during [project] because of [behavior]
  2. Has a tendency to avoid delegating tasks during projects
  3. Is quiet and reluctant to share ideas and knowledge during team meetings
  4. Is often reluctant to provide feedback to other colleagues, even when asked
  5. Has shown an inability to take on constructive criticism by [behavior]

Problem-solving and Creativity

Despite a 2010 survey finding that CEOs value creativity as the top marker for future success, only 35% of employees say that they can be creative multiple times throughout the year. Given that 75% of employees think that their creative potential is wasted at work, your performance reviews need to highlight your employees’ creative skills and celebrate where their creativity has helped to solve problems for the business.

Positive Phrases

  1. Our clients like [employee] for their creative spirit.
  2. Suggested [project] at a team meeting, which has achieved [goal]
  3. Seeks creative solutions like [example], which resulted in [result]
  4. Regularly suggests new projects and ideas in team meetings
  5. Shows curiosity over processes elsewhere in the business and suggests new initiatives like [example]

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Is generally quiet in team meetings and rarely suggests new ideas
  2. Appears hesitant to make creative decisions during projects
  3. Does not take creative risks with their work
  4. Demonstrated a hesitancy to engage creatively with [project]
  5. Is often too “by-the-book” when dealing with customers, leading to [result]

Communication Skills

In a 2018 study, a lack of communication and miscommunication was attributed to increased levels of stress, project failure, poor company morale, lost sales, and missed performance goals. Having strong communication skills is often demanded by job descriptions, but it also needs to be reviewed regularly during the performance management process to keep teams working at peak efficiency.

Positive Phrases

  1. Clearly communicates their thoughts in team meetings
  2. Demonstrates the ability to concisely communicate complex and difficult issues
  3. Demonstrated active listening and debating skills during [project]
  4. Delivers “negative” feedback without alienating others
  5. Has great written communication skills, as evidenced by [example]

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Can become defensive when given constructive criticism or “negative” feedback
  2. Uses unprofessional language/discusses unprofessional topics with colleagues
  3. Written communication from [employee] is often unclear
  4. Rarely asks questions from colleagues and managers, leading to [result]
  5. Is uncomfortable in one-on-one meeting situations

Attitude and Behavior

A negative employee is more likely to be disengaged at work and is at a higher risk of quitting than someone with a more positive attitude. However, given that employees with bad attitudes can also drag the morale of the team down with them, you need to give employees feedback about how their attitude and behavior is affecting their work, colleagues, and even career development in your organization.

Positive Phrases

  1. Demonstrates the ability to motivate and inspire their colleagues by [example]
  2. Is always happy to help their colleagues, even when things are tough for them
  3. Supported [employee] with [task]/through [project] and willingly shared their expertise
  4. Is extremely honest and trustworthy, as demonstrated when [example]
  5. Clients like to work with [employee] because they always strive to do the right thing.

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Has a strong personality which has strained relationships with other employees.
  2. Does not get involved with the company culture
  3. Has been caught gossiping about other employees, which has resulted in [result]
  4. Regularly ignores the company’s dress code
  5. Regularly refuses to take on more challenging tasks

Leadership

While the phrase “employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers” is nearly a cliché, it’s also true – 79% of employees report leaving their job because of a lack of appreciation. Not every employee will be reviewed on their leadership skills, however if you’re looking to promote someone to a supervisory or management position and want to evaluate their skills before they move into a new position, then these skills should be discussed during performance reviews.

Positive Phrases

  1. Sets a positive example for other employees by [example]
  2. While spearheading [project], [employee] was quick to take responsibility for the team’s mistakes.
  3. Is well-respected by their colleagues for [example]
  4. Regularly gives colleagues constructive feedback and shows appreciation for their work and effort.
  5. Demonstrated the ability to remain calm under pressure when [example]

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Struggles to work with differing personalities, as evidenced when [example]
  2. Does not show appreciation for other team members’ work
  3. Tends to avoid responsibility for the actions of others, as evidenced by [example]
  4. Doesn’t provide the support team members need to succeed
  5. Demonstrates the tendency to micromanage when in charge of projects, such as when [example]

Improvement and Goal-setting

According to a psychological study from 1990, goal-setting has the potential to motivate employees towards a higher level of performance, as well as increase overall levels of effort at work. While every good performance review should include managers and employees working together to set goals, it’s helpful to give employees feedback on their attitude towards improvement and those goals to drive performance.

Positive Phrases

  1. Demonstrates a consistent drive to achieve the goals set during performance review meetings
  2. Has a positive attitude towards improving performance and is motivated to succeed
  3. Keeps themselves accountable to their goals by [behavior]
  4. Has fulfilled every goal that has been set in performance review meetings
  5. Regularly seeks development opportunities throughout the company

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Refuses to engage with training events, even when they are relevant to their job role
  2. Missed the deadline for [goal] because [reason]
  3. Sets goals that do not challenge their current level of performance
  4. Demonstrates an inability to push past their comfort zone, such as when [example]
  5. Pursues personal goals on company time and at the expense of professional goals

Organizational Skills

It’s estimated that office workers lose an average of 40% of their workday due to disorganization, which is why performance management reviews should address organizational skills if managers want to improve an employee’s productivity. While some organizational strategies will have to come from a managerial level, such as organizational apps or better internal processes, employees should also be encouraged to improve their own organizational skills through the performance management process.

Positive Phrases

  1. Effectively prioritizes their workload by [example]
  2. Always meets production benchmarks and deadlines
  3. Always maintains an organized work environment
  4. Helps other team members use organizational software to stay on top of tasks
  5. Is flexible with their task plans to accommodate shifting priorities

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Struggles to handle their current workload
  2. Is inflexible and becomes panicked when work deadlines are changed
  3. Regularly misses production benchmarks and deadlines due to a lack of planning
  4. Can be easily distracted from the task at hand, as evidenced by [example]
  5. Regularly postpones difficult tasks in favor of easier ones

Technical Skills

Many organizations rely on their employees having a physical competency with certain types of machinery or software. Not only do employees legally have to be trained and/or qualified to operate certain forms of machinery, but some optional qualifications and training provided for software and other practices can improve performance. While organizations that require technical skills should already be tracking these in performance reviews, it’s also a good idea to keep on top of optional training to help your employees perform at their best.

Positive Phrases

  1. Regularly seeks out training opportunities when they arise
  2. Sought to organize their mandatory training with their manager ahead of its expiry
  3. Pursues additional qualifications to improve performance
  4. Achieved [qualification], which is outside of their responsibilities
  5. Pursued [qualification] so they could [result]

Needs Improvement Phrases

  1. Refuses to attend technical seminars in their field
  2. Struggles to apply themselves to mandatory training
  3. Failed [qualification] and must wait to be retested
  4. Does not stay up to date with the latest technological advancements in their field
  5. Struggles to learn new forms of technology, such as [example]

Performance Review Phrases for High Achievers

High performers might, at first, seem like the easiest performance management review you’ll conduct through this period. However, as mentioned above, you can’t always tell what’s going on with your employee behind the scenes. While someone who’s a high performer deserves praise for their achievements, there’s a fine line between praising their work and reinforcing negative behaviors like cronyism, arrogance, competitiveness, or even a work obsession that’s leading to burnout.

It can also be difficult to know what to say when you perceive that a high-achieving employee doesn’t have any weaknesses or anything they need to improve upon. Unfortunately, not every company has the capability for high-achieving employees to move upwards in their careers, and it can be difficult to set goals for them that don’t include something they’re already achieving.

As always, a performance review should be a conversation between you and your employee, so it’s important to have documentation of any areas that need improvement in case they don’t perceive their own weaknesses. You also need to make sure that you’re continuously challenging them, which is why it’s important to keep setting them new goals and milestones, even if your organization can’t move them upwards. Otherwise, you risk losing them to a new organization that promises that challenge.

Performance reviews with Profit.co

Profit.co’s performance management module allows HR administrators and managers to conduct customizable, detailed, and efficient performance reviews.

Profit.co supports two types of performance reviews– standard reviews, and affinity-based reviews.

Standard Reviews

Standard reviews– also called conversation and feedback reviews– allow HR administrators to customize a collection of open-ended questions answered by both managers and reviewed employees.

This not only gives employees ample opportunity to voice their opinion on their performance and perspective, but also allows managers to review their answers and dedicate time and attention towards crafting responses. This written component usually precedes a one-on-one meeting. When managers have the opportunity to read employee thoughts early, then can prepare their comments in advance and have a more productive conversation with the employee.

Affinity-Based Reviews

Affinity-based reviews are reliant on competency rating scales to help quantify employee skills and attributes.

This type of review is commonly used when conducting a 360-degree review that includes peer reviewers. Managers can derive both quantitative and qualitative information from this review, as well as hear the perspective of the reviewed employee and their peers. Reviewers can comment on competency ratings and craft positive feedback and constructive criticism ahead of an in-person meeting with the reviewed employee.

Top Performance Review Phrases: In Summary

Very few managers relish the idea of holding a performance management review, which is why having a base knowledge of useful comments and phrases can help to save time and make the process more efficient. However, you should also be aware that these top phrases and comments for 2021 aren’t intended to be used as “cookie-cutter” answers, but rather as an inspiration to help make your performance conversations productive and effective.

Managers need to keep in mind that all of their employees are individuals and have different beliefs, drives, and motivations. So, every performance conversation should be individualized to each employee to help them get the most out of their manager’s feedback. Managers need to avoid using meaningless cliché phrases and comparing their employees to their coworkers, as well as using the passive voice throughout the meeting and their performance reports.

In combination with those efforts, these performance review phrases will help you to elevate your performance conversations by ensuring that your employees get personalized and actionable feedback.

100 Performance Review Phrases and Comments for 2021Download PDF Here

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