Performance Review Phrases

Posted by Luke Thomas
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Performance review season is a stressful time of year. As a leader, it can be a struggle for you to properly describe a behavior exhibited by an employee, so we tried to make it easier by listing over 100 performance review phrases below. They are grouped by category to make it easy to find inspiration and not get in trouble with HR.

Two pieces of advice before you get started:

At Friday, we make it easy to have regular conversations, so you don’t have to bottle up your feedback for a performance review that happens once a year. See our playbooks for success. You should not delay important conversations. We strongly recommend having regular 1-1s and establishing a feedback loop. Don't kick the can down the road.

Second, please make sure when completing a performance review that you outline behaviors, not personality traits. Behaviors can be changed. Also make sure you document the behavior. Ideally, you bring it up in-the-moment vs. a performance review.

With the disclaimer out of the way, here's a list of canned performance review phrases to give you some inspiration. For the love of everything, please don't copy these phrases verbatim.

You owe it to your employee to put some time into this process. If you want to learn how to effective run a performance review, you should read High Output Management.

1.) Flexibility


  • Constantly identifies more efficient ways of doing business
  • Is accepting of constructive criticism
  • Is a well-versed team player capable of handling a variety of assignments
  • Is calm under pressure
  • Is a calming force, especially with [his/her] peer group
  • Shows initiative, and is flexible when approaching new tasks.

Areas of Improvement

  • Does not excel at activities which require a high degree of flexibility
  • Tends to resist activities where the path is unknown
  • Appears uninterested in new duties
  • Becomes uptight when the plan changes


2.) Attendance & being on-time


  • Is punctual and consistently on-time to meetings
  • Arrives at meetings on time and is always prepared
  • Attained perfect attendance over $time_period
  • Schedules time-off according to company policy
  • Completes deadlines as promised

Areas for improvement

  • Does not meet attendance standards for punctuality
  • Has exceeded the maximum number of vacation days allotted
  • Is frequently late to work
  • Does not return communications in a timely manner

3.) Communication


  • Regularly gives constructive feedback
  • Is willing to entertain others ideas
  • Asks great questions
  • Explains tough issues in a way that is clear to the rest of the team
  • Is not afraid to say “I don’t know” when presented with a tough question.
  • Is effective at summarizing and communicating key business decisions.
  • Stands out among his/her peers for outstanding communication skills
  • Is effective at persuading and convincing peers, especially when the stakes are high
  • Is an effective listener, always willing to listen and understand peers objections
  • Makes new employees feel welcome
  • Acts as a calming force when the team is under pressure

Needs Improvement

  • Blames others for problems
  • Complains of lack of resources to adequately complete job functions
  • Fails to alert proper personnel regarding bad news
  • Regularly engages in off-putting conversations, can be territorial at times
  • Humiliates staff members on a regular basis
  • Has trouble communicating effectively in groups
  • Has other coworkers deliver bad news instead of doing it himself/herself
  • Makes others feel intimidated when working on company projects

4.) Creativity


  • Thinks outside the box to find the best solution to a particular problem
  • Is creative and finds ways to correlate ideas with action
  • Artfully changes when presented with new information and ideas
  • Is always willing to directly challenge the status quo in pursuit of a more effective solution
  • Contributes fresh ideas regularly
  • Encourages coworkers to be inventive
  • Contributes innovative ideas in group projects
  • Contributes suggestions regularly on how to improve company processes

Needs Improvement

  • Demonstrates disinterest in contributing creative or innovative ideas
  • Is rigid and unwilling to adjust when presented with new information
  • Fails to properly attribute coworkers who contribute innovative solutions
  • Seems unwilling to take risks, even when presented with a compelling reason
  • Fails to incentivize peers to take creative and innovative risks
  • Is reluctant to find more effective ways to do job activities

5.) Customer Relations


  • Works effectively with clients
  • Has strong rapport with those he/she interacts with
  • Enjoys the people related aspects of the business
  • Is pleasant and projects a friendly tone over the phone
  • Has become a linchpin with clients
  • Consistently spearheads effective customer relations
  • Is empathetic towards customer issues
  • Is direct, yet helpful in dealing with customer concerns
  • Displays an effective cadence when working with clients on projects. Is effective, not overbearing
  • Artfully helps customers overcome objections
  • Can handle difficult customers with grace

Needs Improvement

  • Consistently receives substandard comments from customers
  • Appears disinterested in helping customers with their challenges
  • Does not manage customer expectations, especially in tough situations
  • Consistently passes challenging issues to others instead of tackling them head-on
  • Misses opportunities to further educate customers about other products or services.
  • Uses inappropriate language with customers
  • Appears to become frustrated by clients who ask questions
  • Displays sarcasm when dealing with client challenges

6.) Goal-Setting


  • Is effective at goal-setting and challenging oneself
  • Clearly communicates goals and objections to coworkers
  • Is constantly striving to be the best he/she possibly can be
  • Sets concrete and measurable goals
  • Sets aggressive targets to meet business objectives
  • Creates clearly defined goals that align with the company’s mission
  • Proactively shares progress on goals

Needs Improvement

  • Is inconsistent in defining goals and objectives
  • Struggles to set goals that align with company objectives
  • Sets performance goals that are out of touch with reality
  • Struggles to communicate when deadlines will be missed
  • Leaves peers struggling to understand the status of a project
  • Refuses to delegate to others, attempts to do all the work by himself/herself
  • Is unwilling to claim responsibility for missed goals
  • Is easily distracted and disinterested in focusing to achieve performance goals

7.) Motivation & Drive


  • Constantly pursues learning opportunities
  • Consistently takes on additional responsibility for the team
  • Successfully finds more effective ways to perform a specific task
  • Is constantly looking for new ways to help the team
  • Is always willing to jump in and learn something new
  • Requires little direction when given a new responsibility
  • Is not afraid to take calculated risks
  • Is not afraid to make periodic mistakes

Needs Improvement

  • Is unwilling to assume responsibilities outside of his/her job description
  • Frequently sows seeds of doubt with the rest of the team
  • Resists opportunities to train and learn new things
  • Contributes few suggestions to projects with ambiguity
  • Can be overzealous, stepping on others’ toes
  • Seems unwilling to learn new things
  • Struggles to do tasks without assistance from peers

8.) Understanding of Job Responsibilities


  • Has a strong understanding of job responsibilities
  • Regularly alerts management of key developments in his/her job function
  • Has deep knowledge that surpasses job expectations
  • Regularly contributes and works with other departments
  • Crafts an extensive network of peers to tackle tough issues
  • Shares knowledge with peers
  • Is constantly sharing industry trends and best practices to create outsized outcomes
  • Is adept in all areas of job responsibility

Needs Improvement

  • Has little understanding of the competitive landscape
  • Has difficulty locating necessary information to complete job responsibilities
  • Produces many unnecessary errors
  • Produces substandard work
  • Fails to demonstrate a strategic mindset
  • Does not demonstrate mastery of basic concepts in the role

9.) Judgement


  • Shows sound judgment when evaluating multiple opportunities
  • Comes to reasonable conclusions based on information presented
  • Is fact-based, and refuses to accept emotional arguments when evaluating a decision
  • Remains calm, especially under stress
  • Balances swift decision-making, with the ability to analyze the many angles to a story
  • Is confident and persuasive when making big decisions
  • Consistently understands the core issues at play, enabling him/her to solve problems at a remarkable pace
  • Makes confident decisions when presented with facts and data.
  • Effectively prioritizes urgent matters with those that can wait
  • Effectively outlines the best case (and worst case) scenarios to aid decision-making

Needs Improvement

  • Makes hasty decisions without first collecting facts & data to inform the decision-making process
  • Consistently displays analysis paralysis when making a decision
  • Makes big decisions without approval from respective parties
  • Is unable to keep confidential information private
  • Approaches decisions with a one-track mindset. Has a “my way or the highway” view of others ideas.

10.) Leadership Ability


  • Is a servant-leader, always willing to help his/her team
  • Gives structure, feedback, and direction to his/her team
  • Consistently recognizes his/her team for a job well done
  • Actively listens to his/her team
  • Creates a culture of dialogue
  • Recognizes staff for a job well done
  • Provides just enough conflict to find the best outcome
  • Balances the strategy of the organization with tactical day-to-day tasks
  • Demonstrates a high bar for ethical behavior

Needs Improvement

  • Tends to overanalyze problems when a prompt decision is required
  • Fails to plan for the future
  • Sends mixed signals to the team regarding goals and day-to-day activities
  • Rarely gives recognition to his/her team
  • Sets unreasonably high expectations for his/her team
  • Fails to keep confidential information secret
  • Plays favorites and does not treat each member of the team equally

11.) Active Listening


  • Is an active and focused listener
  • Makes sure the team feels heard
  • Creates healthy dialogue to help the best solution come forward
  • Listens with an open mind
  • Demonstrates a sincere appreciation for opposing viewpoints
  • Actively seeks feedback, even when it’s not in agreement
  • Asks insightful questions to understand the root cause
  • Empathizes with others who have opposing viewpoints
  • Follows instructions with care and attention

Needs Improvement

  • Asks questions that show he/she is not actively listening to the conversation at hand
  • Is distracted easily and doesn’t fully absorb another person’s point of view
  • Interrupts peers
  • Constantly interjects into conversations
  • Dismisses other people’s ideas who she/he doesn’t agree with
  • Stops listening when presented with an opposing viewpoint

That’s all for now. We’ll continue to update this list of phrases in the future. Again, we strongly recommend having continuous conversations with your team vs. waiting for an annual event.

P.S. - Friday can help you automate these communication habits with your team at work.

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