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Phrases for Performance Reviews


It’s important to avoid “cute” phrases.


The choice of phrase used for performance reviews should reflect professionalism, not personalities. Avoid sarcasm and fight the temptation to be cute and clever. Be pleasant but businesslike, and stick to the subject.

Broad Generalizations

Avoid words like “always” and “never”, using instead words like “consistently” or “rarely”, or use percentages and quantifiers. For example, instead of saying that “Mary always stays on break too long,” you might say that “Mary consistently returns to work late from breaks.” If it seems that the employee “always” exhibits a particular behavior, it would be more accurate to give a percentage of the time the employee actually does it out of the number of times he has an opportunity to do so. For example, instead of “Jack is always late for work” you can say that “Jack is tardy for 80 percent of his scheduled shifts.”

Discriminatory Remarks

Do not use inferences to race, sex, religion, handicap, gender or sexual preference. To make such inferences is not only unfair and prejudiced, but also is illegal and should be strictly avoided. For example, instead of commenting that “George is a typical (whatever George is)” say that “George shows poor skill in managing his anger” or “George has a tendency to evade responsibility for his actions.” In other words, be specific about the behavior and do not link the behavior or characteristic to the person’s legally protected attributes.

Personal Remarks

Do not express personal like or dislikes, but do an impersonal evaluation of the employee’s performance and demonstrated ability to do the work assigned to him or her. The workplace is primarily that, a place where work is done to accomplish the goals of the company. It is only secondarily a social environment, to the extent that co-workers need to communicate and get along with each other and the company’s clients and customers and others doing business with the company enough to get the job done. The only character traits that need to be mentioned are those which affect the employee’s ability to do his work. Judgments like “Mark is an evil person” are not professional and should be avoided. If Mark’s evil ways are affecting his job, then be specific, such as “Mark’s treatment of his fellow employees prevents them from being motivated to cooperate with him in his work” or “Mark’s tendency to report facts inaccurately to his own benefit may potentially cause legal problems for his department.”

Be Pleasant

Don’t use nasty, derogatory remarks or name-calling. Try to motivate in a positive manner. If the facts to be presented are negative in nature, present them in a way which is honest but respectful and encourages improvement. Instead of saying “John does a lousy job of cleaning the floors” this could be worded as “John needs to pay more attention to cleaning the floors thoroughly.”

Give Recognition for Excellent Work

If the employee is doing a good job, give credit where credit is due and encourage the employee to keep up the good work. If Bill has a high accuracy rate in his financial reports, or consistently volunteers to help other employees when needed, or in other ways consistently shows excellence in his work, this should be noticed by his employer and he should be given credit on the evaluation. Mention any compliments or awards that Bill has received, and statistics that demonstrate his superior abilities. Examples are “Bill has completed (number) sales per month” or “The company has received (number) memos complimenting Bill on the excellent service he gives to his customers during the past year.”




“Annual Performance Reviews Sample Comments: Phrases for How to Say It | Jerm.” How to Be an Effective Manager. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2010.

“Helpful Phrases.” UT Health Science Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2010.

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