There are many reasons leadership might tense up at the prospect of performance reviews. Maybe they’re first-time managers who are entirely new to the experience and have received little training on giving feedback. They might also be part of a growing company that doesn’t use performance review software and doesn’t have refined people enablement processes.
But here’s the thing: Employees appreciate a regular cycle of feedback and performance reviews.* They expect managers to celebrate successes, help them build their skills, and support their growth.
That’s why we created this list of performance review phrases for you to save and refer back to — whether you’re new to the process or just want to feel more confident before delivering feedback.
Keep in mind that these examples should inspire you, but we believe an individualized approach is most effective in helping employees improve and grow in their careers.
Why it’s important to get the phrasing right in performance reviews
Using the right phrasing in performance reviews is essential to deliver actionable employee feedback effectively.
That extends to celebrating successes. If you can cite a specific situation where an employee did something well or embodied a company value (for example, taking ownership and pursuing excellence is one of our company values at Leapsome), they’ll have an easier time repeating those successes.
Another tip for clear communication is pointing out specific areas for improvement. But you’re more likely to see better results if you pair constructive employee feedback with a clear next step — a way for them to take direct action.
🚀 Use Leapsome’s performance review tool to customize and automate the way you give employees feedback.
Our growth-oriented performance review software lets you track employee performance and create individualized roadmaps for their development.
👉 Learn more
Framing your performance review phrases
While the feedback stage is only one of the elements of a performance review, you should consider adopting a 360° performance assessment format. That means gathering feedback from different sources — including not only the manager’s point of view, but also self-assessments, peer reviews, and feedback from reviewee reports (if they’re managers themselves). Make sure everyone knows to include positive feedback and constructive feedback.
💡 Tip to follow as you run performance review cycles: Be transparent about any correlation between compensation and performance.
The truth is: A one-size-fits-all approach to feedback such as “You should be more communicative” lacks specificity and will leave employees wondering what they’re supposed to do next. Constructive feedback is also about striking a balance between being too direct and being so vague that the person on the other end doesn’t understand the message.
Here are a few concrete feedback examples we recommend checking out to guide you in your performance appraisal:
- [Your action] has really helped the team [result]. Keep it up!
- You always respond thoughtfully when your colleagues ask a question. This has really helped build a positive team environment!
- The client told me that your presentations have been so thorough that they don’t have to ask many follow-up questions.
- When there’s a problem, I notice that you always have original ideas to contribute in meetings, and that’s prompted me to think of more creative solutions.
- It was so helpful when you raised the question about using inclusive language in our outreach, and it’s now become an integral part of our process.
- I suggest that you try [action], as this will help you achieve [intended result].
- Consider asking me or your teammates for clarification when you encounter something you don’t understand, so that you avoid this problem after you’ve finished a task.
- If you don’t feel comfortable contributing your ideas in a meeting, please write them down and email them to me after, so we can benefit from your perspective.
- Your last performance review mentioned you struggle with time management. I recommend time-blocking for focus as a best practice for meeting your deadlines.
- In the future, consider sending out agendas before meetings to ensure you’re using the time efficiently.
100 useful employee performance review phrases for positive & constructive feedback
If you’re new to writing employee performance reviews, you may feel you have to reinvent the wheel without knowing how to prioritize and structure answers.
So we’ve compiled 100 effective performance review phrases you can adapt and individualize according to your needs.
We’ve organized our list according to common core professional values:
- Creative ideas and innovation
- Time management
- Attitude and dependability
- Interpersonal skills and teamwork
- Performance and work quality
- Coaching and development
Clear and effective communication is crucial for a team to thrive. As a manager, it’s important to highlight how your employees’ communication skills may facilitate or detract from efficiency and productivity.
- Makes sure questions and concerns are clarified before taking action
- Can articulate complex concepts and ideas in plain language
- Reiterates what they heard to ensure understanding
- Takes notes or checks in after meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page
- Asks enough questions to understand a problem before working towards a solution
- Facilitates open communication between team members
- Doesn’t ask for help from team members
- Avoids conversations with management
- Avoids asking follow-up questions when receiving constructive feedback
- Doesn’t communicate well when facing a problem or urgent situation
- Takes too long to respond when team members ask for help
Creative ideas & innovation
Companies need creative ideas and innovation from all levels — and not just top-down — to face the challenges of a constantly changing world of work.
- Suggests new approaches or processes for a project
- Is willing to make mistakes when experimenting with innovative solutions
- Engages with other departments to understand their processes
- Encourages others to share their ideas
- Asks why specific processes or systems exist for better understanding
- Stays on top of industry trends and news and shares this information with the team
- Is often too rule-bound and has difficulty with innovative thinking
- Doesn’t innovate for fear of making mistakes
- Often pushes back when presented with new ideas or solutions
- Avoids researching a problem on their own first before turning to others
- Avoids offering new ideas in meetings
Although companies have largely moved away from values like punctuality and attendance with remote and hybrid work, time management remains an important value to encourage in employees.
- Estimates their time well for project completion
- Self-starts and manages their time efficiently
- Consistently meets deadlines
- Respects the time of others
- Creates processes for effective time management
- Excels at prioritizing tasks
- Occasionally (or often) misses deadlines
- Under- or overestimates the time to complete tasks
- Underdelivers in terms of quality on a short deadline or under pressure
- Has difficulty with task prioritization and project management
- Does not respect the time of others in meetings and project
Attitude & dependability
An employee’s attitude towards their responsibilities and coworkers guides their dependability — if they understand the value of what they do, they’re more likely to take ownership of their work and treat others well.
- Demonstrates a positive attitude and treats others with kindness and respect
- Is good at listening to directions and following through
- Makes others feel comfortable asking questions and making suggestions
- Shows accountability for mistakes when they happen
- Acknowledges successes and wins of other team members
- Takes pride in their work and consistently delivers high quality
- Doesn’t always follow through with a project or task
- Avoids engaging with colleagues to celebrate successes and learn from them
- Occasionally or often blames others for their mistakes when they happen
- Has difficulty following directions and doesn’t ask for clarification
- Demonstrates a superior attitude and lack of respect for the expertise of others
Adaptability means more than a willingness to learn new things or work across different departments. It also means a team member knows how to pivot priorities when needed.
- Remains calm in the face of an emergency or priority change
- Is willing to adapt to changes in assignments
- Is open to collaborating with other departments when needed
- Helps team members remain calm in the face of a priority change
- Is open to feedback from people in other departments when problem-solving
- Accepts process changes that could lead to an increase in productivity
- Has difficulties remaining calm when priorities change
- Demonstrates lack of openness to a change in process
- Avoids collaborating with colleagues and teammates
- Has difficulties with problem-solving in the face of an emergency
- Avoids feedback from other departments when problem-solving
Interpersonal skills & teamwork
A team filled with different personalities and working styles can be an asset for leadership and the company as a whole!
- Demonstrates good interpersonal skills with clients
- Contributes to a positive team environment and celebrates colleagues’ successes
- Is a proven team player
- Embraces diversity with enthusiasm
- Seeks to collaborate for the team’s benefit
- Respects the working styles and boundaries of colleagues
- Avoids group projects
- Does not collaborate well in a group setting
- Lacks respect for the working styles and boundaries of colleagues
- Avoids collaboration with colleagues
- Demonstrates a poor attitude towards teamwork
A good manager nurtures leadership within their team, encouraging employees to take the initiative to start projects, ask questions, and mentor others.
- Takes initiative to support juniors and [if applicable] reports
- Takes a leadership role in projects when suitable
- Shows initiative when starting new projects
- Seeks to learn from colleagues and leaders in other departments
- Supports teammates when they ask for help
- Checks in with teammates to ask if they need support on a project
- Lacks initiative when starting new projects
- Does not show any interest in learning from colleagues and leaders
- Demonstrates impatience with team members’ needs
- Avoids supporting new teammates, juniors, or [if applicable] reports
- Does not always treat coworkers as equals
Performance & work quality
As a manager, it’s important to help employees understand how their commitment to good performance and quality work affects the team and the company’s goals.
- Shows excellent attention to detail
- Consistently delivers high-quality work
- Openly embraces feedback to optimize results
- Demonstrates commitment to continuous improvement
- Celebrates high-quality work from colleagues
- Clients and other departments report satisfaction with employee’s work performance
- Demonstrates lack of attention to detail
- Avoids feedback to support delivering quality work
- Lacks a desire to improve
- Clients and coworkers report a lack of satisfaction with employee’s work
- Does not always meet company quality standards
Coachability & development
To guide employees along their desired career paths, you’ll have to measure specific ways they’ve excelled or shown a lack of improvement.
- Is open to constructive criticism from all sources
- Implements feedback and criticism
- Has shown improvement since the last performance appraisal
- Demonstrates a desire to learn new skills
- Teammates have reported marked improvement in work quality
- Is open to optimizing processes for the team’s benefit
- Avoids criticism and feedback
- Avoids implementing suggestions from others
- Shows a lack of interest in learning new skills
- Teammates have reported a lack of improvement in work quality
- Has shown little improvement since the last review
- Avoids improving processes when the need arises
⭐️ Here’s a tip to remember after your performance reviews: Invest in career progression frameworks to support employee growth and help them move forward.
Improve employee performance reviews with Leapsome
We’ve curated these 100 phrases as a starting point for you — make sure you tailor and individualize them to suit your company, team, and employee needs.
When it’s time to conduct performance reviews, you don’t need to start from scratch or bury yourself in paperwork and multiple tools. Even if your company doesn’t have a refined review process yet, Leapsome has timesaving resources and tools to guide you.
Check out Leapsome’s performance reviews to save time, maximize employee development, and scale your performance review efforts all in one place.
📊 Use Leapsome’s performance review tool to customize and automate the way you give employees feedback!
Our growth-oriented performance review software lets you track employee performance and create individualized roadmaps for their development, aligning your team with your company’s mission.
👉 Learn more