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Sophia Lee, author

Sophia Lee

Writer, Culture Amp

If you’ve ever walked away from a performance review confused about where you stand, you’re not alone. The art of giving clear, intentional, and valuable feedback is tricky to master, which is why so many employees have experienced underwhelming performance reviews.

At Culture Amp, our mission is to build a better world of work. Useful feedback, an effective performance management system, and the overall employee experience are inextricably intertwined. That’s why we put together this list of performance review phrases to guide you in the right direction and sharpen your ability to provide useful feedback - whether it's about yourself, your direct reports, or your team members.

Performance review phrases to use during a self-evaluation

Self-evaluations can be awkward. You don’t want to pat yourself on the back too much, but it can also feel uncomfortable to openly share your areas of weakness with others. One way to combat this mental block is to utilize phrases that are more objective in nature. Chris Zeller, an Executive Recruiter at Adecco, explains, "It's always helpful to keep feedback rooted in observable behavior, which has nothing to do with intent or inherent traits."

This recommendation is aligned with the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) feedback model, which aims to focus on facts and less on subjective assessments. To use this model, you structure your feedback around the following components:

  • Situation: Describe the situation. Be specific about when and where it occurred.
  • Behavior: Describe the observable behavior.
  • Impact: Explain how the action has affected others.

Based on this advice, here are phrases you can use during the self-evaluation portion of your performance review.

To recognize positive performance

I demonstrated [behavior] when I [example].

This phrase is effective when talking positively about your performance because it identifies a strength while also providing a concrete example. This phrase is useful and makes it less awkward to talk about yourself since you're not subjectively assessing your personality.

Examples:

  1. I demonstrated initiative when I wrote three additional blog posts this quarter.
  2. I displayed leadership skills when I led the engineering team through a feature release.
  3. I showed dedication as a manager when I guided an employee through a work conflict.
  4. I demonstrated my collaboration skills by planning the holiday party with a full committee.
  5. I showed strong time management skills and teamwork when I took over my teammate’s work while he was on vacation and completed all my own tasks as well.
I successfully completed [project or milestone] and, as a result, achieved [results].

This performance review phrase is less focused on your behaviors and more focused on the results of specific milestones you reached or projects you completed. This is a great phrase to use if you have strong data points to share.

Examples:

  1. I attended five events and, as a result, exceeded my sales quota by 10% this quarter.
  2. I set up multiple goal checkpoints, which led to the marketing team hitting all its Q1 KPIs.
  3. I implemented a new update, which resulted in a 10% increase in website engagement.
  4. I finished a content audit and was able to pinpoint the gaps we need to address in Q2.
  5. I planned a successful PR offsite and, as a result, the team produced three fresh story angles to pitch next month.

To acknowledge areas of improvement

I recognize that I could improve in [area of improvement]. I plan to do so by [action].

While it’s tough to talk about the areas you need improvement in, this performance review phrase is helpful because it immediately offers a solution to the “problem.” This shows your manager that you’re proactive, self-aware, and driven because you’re taking ownership of your weaknesses. Kate Snowise, an executive coach and manager, explains, "There is one skill that can massively impact the way existing and emerging leaders are perceived by their peers and superiors: demonstrating initiative through being consistently solution-focused."

Examples:

  1. I recognize that I could improve the way I run meetings, which I plan to do by coming up with more focused agendas.
  2. I know I need to speak up during brainstorms. I’m going to start planning ideas ahead of time so I feel more prepared.
  3. I recognize that I need to improve how I proofread my work, so I’m planning to make grammar and spell checks a routine part of my review process.
  4. I need to show more composure in stressful situations. To do this, I’m going to practice mindfulness and step away from my desk when I feel overwhelmed.  
  5. I know that I interrupt others unintentionally. I’ve asked my team to gently let me know when I do this so I can be more aware of my actions.
I’m going to stop doing [action] because I know it results in [consequence].

This performance phrase is more direct. It pinpoints a specific action that you know has negative results or consequences, while demonstrating your commitment to avoiding it in the future.

Examples:

  1. I’m going to stop calling out people for mistakes in meetings because I know it can be embarrassing and isn’t the appropriate way to handle the situation.
  2. My goal is to stop coming to meetings late because I know it’s disrespectful of everyone’s time.
  3. I’m going to stop raising conflicts in Slack because I know messages can be easily misconstrued and some problems are better resolved in person.
  4. I won’t change project deadlines without alerting everyone else involved because I know it affects people’s workloads.
  5. I’m going to stop micromanaging my colleagues because I know it makes them feel like I don’t trust them.

Performance review phrases to use when you're a manager

As a manager, you serve as the gatekeeper for your direct reports' feedback, so there’s a lot of pressure to deliver it in an impactful way. The balancing act of delivering positive feedback while also providing constructive comments can be challenging. Sara Kaplan, Social Media, Content, and PR Manager at Weploy, suggests a specific framework to make the process a bit easier.

She elaborates, "At my company, I’m asked to give feedback in the following format: Stop/Start/Keep Doing - it helps frame things constructively."

This Stop/Start/Keep Doing framework is also beneficial for making it clear to employees how they can influence and take action on their personal and professional development. While development should be owned by the employees, managers can use these phrases to help track progress and keep them accountable.  

Keeping this constructive approach in mind, below are phrases you can use to effectively provide feedback to your direct reports.

To recognize positive performance

You excel at [action], and I would love to continue seeing that from you.

With this phrase, you’re calling out behavior that you want to encourage an employee to keep doing. This makes clear to the individual what they’re doing well and what’s you expect them to continue doing in the future. The more specific you can be with this feedback, the more impactful it will be for the employee.

Examples:

  1. You excel at creating thoughtful marketing decks. I would love to have you continue taking the lead on them, especially since I know you enjoy the creative process.
  2. I’m really impressed with the way you revamped our weekly kickoff meeting. I want you to keep speaking out about processes you think could be improved.
  3. I appreciate the way you took ownership of the code and fixed the bugs. Please continue being as honest and proactive as you have been about your work.
  4. The way you handled the conflict on your team was so professional. You should feel empowered to continue addressing those situations.
  5. I really respect how you managed the expectations of the CEO about our PR goals. I would love to see you continuing to push back on anything you don’t feel sets our team up for success.
I encourage you to keep doing [action]. I’ve received positive feedback that this has really helped the team [result].

This phrase is a little different because it gives you the opportunity to incorporate feedback from a third party (e.g., a peer or somebody on another team). Whether or not it’s anonymous depends on what your team is comfortable with. This way, your employee knows their performance or actions is appreciated by people beyond just you.

Examples:

  1. I encourage you to keep being a sounding board for your teammates. Many of your team members say you’re a great listener, and they feel comfortable sharing ideas with you.
  2. Multiple people mentioned how skilled you are at keeping everyone on track with tight deadlines, which has been beneficial for the team’s productivity. I’d love to see you continue to take the lead on this for future projects.
  3. I encourage you to keep building a relationship with our remote team. They told me how much they appreciate your consistent and clear communication.
  4. Our new hire shared that you were instrumental in getting her onboarded onto the team quickly. Is this a process you’d be interested in taking over in the future?
  5. I would love for you to continue sharing fresh ideas at the monthly brainstorm. The last one you suggested was one of our most successful campaigns, and everyone considers it to be a big win.

To identify areas of improvement

My feedback is for you to stop [action] because it results in [consequence].

This is a way to let your employees know that a specific and observable action they’ve taken is undesirable. Moreover, it gives you a chance to explain the negative outcomes, which is something your direct report may not have been aware of in the first place. It’s important to make sure this action is one either you or a team member has witnessed multiple times - otherwise, it’s difficult to justify why your employee is receiving this feedback.

Examples:

  1. My feedback is that you stop sending urgent emails late at night. You’re creating stress for the other team members outside of working hours, and it’s not a healthy habit.
  2. When you raise your voice during discussions, you make other people uncomfortable. This is something you should be aware of and not do moving forward.
  3. I’m aware that you cancel your one-on-one meetings almost every week. This isn’t acceptable given you’re a manager responsible for the career growth of multiple employees.
  4. I would like to see you stop waiting until the last minute to prepare your quarterly results. Your presentations tend to be scattered and don’t represent your team’s efforts well.
  5. My ask is that you stop using your laptop during meetings. It gives the impression that you aren’t engaged and is distracting for others as well.
I encourage you to start [action] because it will help you [intended result].

If you’re not comfortable asking an employee to stop doing something, you can flip it and ask them to start doing something instead. For instance, instead of asking them to stop being late to meetings, you can encourage them to start planning ahead for meetings so they get there early - pick whichever phrase better suits your management style.

Examples:

  1. I encourage you to set an alarm a few minutes before a meeting starts so you come on time.
  2. It would be beneficial for you to start taking notes during our stand-up so you don’t forget any of the tasks or feedback that were shared with you.
  3. You should block off time on your calendar to get your administrative tasks done on time since it's easy to let them fall through the cracks.
  4. I think it would be valuable to have a team member review your client emails to help you check the tone.
  5. I encourage you to start practicing flexibility when it comes to new ideas - it may help you discover time-saving processes.

Performance review phrases to use when evaluating peers

Many companies incorporate 360° feedback. This type of feedback involves collecting responses from peers who work with the individual being reviewed. Sharing feedback about someone you work with every day, who you may be friends with, is tricky - especially when the feedback is constructive.

Christine Tao, Co-Founder and CEO of SoundingBoard, offers her perspective on how to approach this challenge. She explains, "Being specific and timely helps - the more you can catch or note the behavior close to when it occurred, the better. And when you share it, describe the impact that it had on you or others. You can also take this further by asking questions on what other actions they might take or change if the feedback is constructive."

Another important thing to keep in mind: Anonymous feedback doesn’t give you the liberty to be unfairly harsh in your review of a peer. It’s never easy to be the recipient of negative feedback, so try to practice empathy - especially when sharing constructive feedback with a fellow colleague.

Lauren Linzenberg, Founder & HR Consultant at MENSC{HR}, recommends doing a gut check. She goes on, “Make sure you're comfortable saying what you wrote in the review to the person's face. If you provide feedback that you wouldn't feel comfortable confronting in person, you may run into resistance.”

To recognize positive performance

When you did [action], it really helped me [result].

This phrase identifies a specific instance when you really appreciated your colleague’s contribution. When giving this feedback during a performance review, focus on something recent as you will likely recall their accomplishment more accurately. This phrase also follows the SBI feedback model and will help your peers understand what actions or behaviors positively impacted you, and why.

Examples:

  1. When you offered to take one of the writing projects off my plate, it made me feel supported because you recognized that I was busy and stepped in proactively.
  2. You saved me a lot of time when you pointed out the error in my code early on.
  3. When you publicly gave me credit for the project we worked on together, it made me feel recognized.
  4. I really appreciate the feedback you shared with me about my communication style - it helped me identify and improve on an issue I wasn’t even aware of.
  5. When you supported my idea in the brainstorm, it gave me the confidence to continue advocating for my project.
I really appreciate it when you [behavior], such as when you [example]. 

This phrase shifts the focus from a specific action to general behavior. However, that doesn’t make this phrase less valid or more difficult to understand because it’s still rooted in tangible examples.

When it comes to behavioral feedback, it's important to be aware of gender biases. Research has shown that managers and peers - regardless of gender - tend to give women more personality-oriented feedback and men more work-oriented feedback. Unfortunately, the former is less actionable and can contribute to the gender gap, so it’s critical to be mindful of this when utilizing this phrase.

Examples:

  1. Your conflict management skills are really valuable to our team. For example, you were pivotal in resolving our team’s dispute about processes last week.
  2. I really appreciate it when you give constructive feedback. Your feedback helped me refine my ideas for my last presentation, which ended up being a success.
  3. I love how you take ownership of problems even when they’re not your own. It sets a great example for me.
  4. You’re great at solving challenging work problems. You helped me navigate multiple stressful situations by allowing me to bounce ideas off of you.
  5. I admire the proactiveness you brought to our most recent project because it helped me plan ahead and prioritize my work.

To point out areas of improvement

I think you could improve on [action] because [reason].

You’ll notice the language of this phrase is less managerial in tone. It’s more of a suggestion based on behavior or results you’ve witnessed, rather than an ask to “stop” a certain behavior since this is feedback between two peers.

Examples:

  1. I think you could improve the way you share updates with the rest of the team. Sometimes, people get left out of the loop so not everyone is on the same page.
  2. An area you could improve on is prioritization - you’re always so willing to jump into new projects, which is great, but that results in unmet deadlines.
  3. I think you could improve on staying focused during meetings and brainstorms. Discussions frequently go off track because you want to take them in another direction.
  4. An area of improvement to consider is the way you edit other people’s work. It would be helpful to explain why you update something instead of changing it without context.
  5. You could improve the way you manage expectations with our customers so they don’t end up disappointed or upset down the road.
I would love to see you do more [action] because [reason].

Again, if asking someone to improve on something isn’t comfortable for you, a more positive way to frame feedback is to say “I would love to see you do more…”

Examples:

  1. I would love to see you take more ownership of your mistakes. Everyone makes them, but it makes the resolution a lot smoother if there’s no finger-pointing.
  2. It would be great if you could recognize when you need help, and ask for it, so we can avoid any lost effort or time.
  3. I would really appreciate it if you could be more open to other people’s suggestions because new perspectives can be valuable.
  4. I would love to see you be more thorough when handing off projects because it’ll make the transition more seamless.
  5. It would be great to see you engage more during our status meetings because it feels like you’re frequently uninterested in what the rest of the team is working on.

Take your performance review to the next level

Hopefully, these phrases helped you better envision the type of feedback to incorporate in your next performance review. Remember that these are just starting points - you should feel empowered to mix up the phrases, tweak them to fit your management style, or come up with your own if you didn’t see any that resonated with you.

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