How to Write a Performance Review

Before you learn how to write a performance review, you should understand how they work. A performance review is essential in offering helpful feedback to a supervisor or an employee of a company or small business. Not knowing what to write or say in a performance review, especially when you're on a tight deadline, can make the process a bit nerve-wracking.

A performance review is a tool that provides employers a chance to give constructive feedback to their employees, ensuring that the business is operating under expected conditions. Performance reviews also allow a boss the chance to praise an employee for a job well done, as well as to offer guidance on something the employee may not be doing right. It can also generate an open discussion about a company's future and whether the business has the potential for employee growth.

The ideal performance review will involve managers and employees having meaningful, reflective conversations with one another. This is the chance to document the company's accomplishments over the past year and help employees understand expectations and celebrate progress.

Performance reviews can take place in face-to-face conversations or in written form. Using both can be beneficial for employees to discover where they stand at the company and how they can make improvements. When you provide a written performance review, you're giving an employee a concrete document that can be referred back to in order to help the employee stay on track.

Some employees get nervous when the time for performance reviews comes around, so it's important to conduct the reviews in a positive, conducive way that can help identify problem areas, note improvements, and provide a standardized method for promotional-based decisions within the company.

Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals and Reviews

When writing a performance review, it's a good idea to focus on positive phrases to keep employees engaged and open to suggestions. The following concepts can help you hone in on positive words and give you a better idea of how to proceed with your reviews.


  • State how the employee achieves optimal performance levels
  • Provide strong evidence for specific accomplishments
  • Showcase how an employee excels at delivering results
  • Acknowledge how an employee has improved production through a specific task
  • Note how a worker has exceeded original goals and expectations


  • Focus on administrative effectiveness and how employees seek ways to better company procedures
  • Highlight any successful administrative strategy developments
  • Recognize employees or supervisors who have established effective information retrieval systems
  • State how an employee has improved administrative support through specific tasks or decisions
  • Note how an employee keeps documents organized to avoid duplicating important information


  • Show a sincere interest in each individual employee and solutions to their concerns and problems
  • Lend support and guidance
  • Approach disciplinary issues with sound coaching techniques
  • Provide continuous coaching
  • Share concerns, problems, and opportunities with employees

Communication Skills

  • Effectively communicate expectations during a performance review
  • Excel in facilitating group discussions
  • Keep the meeting on task by being action-oriented
  • Effectively communicate on all levels, including superiors, co-workers, and employees
  • Enforce company values and policies without negative reactions


  • Encourage team collaboration
  • Share ideas and techniques
  • Build a strong relationship with others
  • Display a peaceful and cooperative spirit
  • Share expertise


  • Seek creative alternatives to problems
  • Remain imaginative and clever when confronted with obstacles
  • Be open to experiment to drive results
  • Initiate and execute creative ideas
  • Seek new approaches and ideas


  • Empower employees with the resources and authority they need to achieve results
  • Help employees gain visibility through certain tasks
  • Encourage employees to solve their own problems
  • Delegate based on personal strengths
  • Delegate with clearly defined authority and responsibility


  • Develop continuous improvement methods
  • Conceive fresh strategies
  • Continue to grow and improve
  • Come up with improved ways and methods of accomplishing results
  • Always plan for improvement


  • Develop innovative strategies
  • Be innovative, even under adverse conditions
  • Seek innovative solutions to problems
  • Foster a curiosity for innovation and possibilities
  • Lead by example to promote innovation

Interpersonal Skills

  • Recognize the needs of others
  • Reach out to lend a helping hand when needed
  • Establish effective working relationships
  • Generate synergy
  • Build on mutual understanding and dependence
  • Promote company culture among peers

Learning Ability

  • Display abilities to learn quickly and adapt to changes
  • Share learning experience with others
  • Promote a learning culture
  • Remain committed to learning
  • Respond quickly to new situations, instructions, procedures, and methods

Management Ability

  • Provide team support
  • Collaborate with team members
  • Hold employees accountable for results
  • Provide the team with the resources needed to attain good results
  • Provide support during times of organizational change


  • Develop workable action plans
  • Create flexible plans to meet emerging opportunities
  • Put plans into action
  • Excel in developing alternative solutions
  • Formulates tactics, strategies, and action plans to drive results


  • Perform well in a higher-level position
  • Reach the level for promotional consideration
  • Handle bigger assignments and projects
  • Make a strong effort to acquire skills and experience to increase advancement potential
  • Enhance growth potential through training and education

Problem Solving

  • Display practical approaches to solving problems
  • Develop creative solutions to problems
  • Turn problems into opportunities
  • Effectively solve problems, not just symptoms
  • Be skilled in proposing solutions


  • Exceed the minimum standards
  • Continuously produce more than the expected amount
  • Be an important contributor to the department's success
  • Make a substantial contribution to the company's operation and growth
  • Exceed performance goals

Project Management

  • Complete projects with good results
  • Set realistic timetables
  • Keep projects on task and target
  • Be transparent with an assignment's progress
  • Make use of available resources
  • Clearly establish project goals and objectives

Supervisory Skills

  • Give recognition to employees when earned
  • Maintain a work situation that stimulates individual employee growth
  • Be sure that employees understand their responsibilities
  • Remain available for support
  • Recognize and know how to deal with employee burnout

Time Management

  • Consistently meet deadlines
  • Prepare concise, time-saving meeting agendas
  • Keep meetings on schedule
  • Respects others' time
  • Make use of discretionary time


  • Excel at living the company's values
  • Promote strong support for the company's values and mission
  • Turn visions into action plans
  • Demonstrate the ability to execute a vision
  • Excel at contributing to company goals

Performance reviews should always be comprehensive enough to balance both positive and negative feedback regarding an employee's work. Using this type of terminology can help achieve that balance.

How to Write an Effective Performance Review

Effective performance reviews should summarize informal feedback by addressing issues immediately after an incident occurs. Doing so will help avoid bringing any tension into the employee evaluation. However, if an employee's behavior does not warrant immediate feedback, simply make a note of the behavior and reference it during an informal or formal performance review.

Performance reviews are most effective when the person in charge of giving it is careful about the exact phrasing. The review should be honest and contain constructive criticism that can help the employee in the future. As such, the review should provide direct, clear information about any mistakes or shortcomings that can be improved upon.

Employers should encourage discussion after giving the performance review. Asking employees to give feedback on any issues raised during the review is an effective method.

Always end a performance review on a positive note by encouraging the employee, noting any strengths and letting them know how much they are appreciated at the company. This not only helps lift an employee's spirits after a negative evaluation, but it can also boost someone's confidence after receiving a positive review. Either way, ending on a positive note will give workers the drive to perform better.

Required Components of a Performance Review

There are a few required components of any performance review. These include:

  • The employee's name
  • The manager's name
  • The reviewer's name, if different from the manager
  • The date of the performance review
  • The current review period
  • The employee's job title, level, or position
  • A list or overview of the performance review's evaluation criteria and instructions
  • The employee's overall performance rating
  • General feedback or comments to support the overall rating
  • A few concrete examples to support the employee's rating

The following items are suggested components to include on a written performance review, but they are not required:

  • Performance objectives based on the employee's job description
  • A rating against each performance objective
  • Specific activities and job results being reviewed on the evaluation
  • Employee strengths and weaknesses
  • Recommended training needs and opportunities for the employee
  • Suggested development goals for the employee

Optional Components of a Performance Review

The following items are nice to include on a performance review, but they are optional:

  • Examples to support each performance rating
  • Comments from clients and peers
  • Formal descriptions of the performance criteria being evaluated
  • Criteria used to award bonuses, salary increases, and promotions, and where the employee stands in that respect

Things to Avoid

The following should be avoided altogether when giving a performance review:

  • Excessive criticism
  • Overly negative words
  • Specific details on promotions, salary increases, or bonuses
  • Disciplinary threats for underachievement or poor performance
  • Focusing only on the most memorable or most recent actions or activities as the sole basis for the performance review
  • Mentioning items that have not been previously discussed with the employee
  • Providing feedback without giving examples
  • Placing emphasis on personality rather than results and productivity

Tips for Writing Effective Employee Performance Reviews

An employee should never hear about the need to make improvements for the first time at a formal performance review or discussion unless the insight or information is brand new.

Effective managers will discuss both areas for improvement as well as positive performance on a regular basis, even weekly or daily. As such, the performance review will only be a way to re-emphasis crucial points that have already been made to the employee. Essentially, the best managers won't surprise employees at review time.

The first step in giving an effective performance review is to set a goal. Document any goals, expectations or job plan in a simple, easy-to-understand format.

While preparing the review and setting goals, provide a rundown on what the company expects from its employees and what you personally expect as a supervisor. You should also note exactly how the company assesses job performance.

An employer should hold back from making judgments, either favorable or unfavorable, as they pertain to recent events. Instead, document and focus on positive and negative occurrences during the time period in which the performance review covers. This may mean saving a recent event for the next performance evaluation.

It can also be effective to get feedback from colleagues who work closely with the employee. This is sometimes referred to as "360-degree feedback" because the supervisor is considering all types of feedback, including feedback from an employee's peers.

Performance reviews can come with a lot of emotion and drama, so take some of the edge off the situation by handing out the performance review for employees to complete ahead of time. The more opportunities you give employees to prepare for the event, the better.

Remember, an effective performance review will consist of positive aspects of the employee's performance, and these should take more time to discuss than any negative aspects.

You can make the conversation easier by being sincere and fostering a positive relationship that aims to help an employee rather than criticize.

If you want employees to stay motivated and excited about opportunities at the company, as well as continue to grow and better contribute, you must give the employee plenty of time to talk during the performance review. You can keep them engaged in conversation by asking questions, such as:

  • What do you think is the most challenging thing about meeting your goals this quarter?
  • What support can I or the department offer to help you reach those goals?
  • What do you hope to achieve at the company in the coming year?
  • How can I be a better manager?
  • How often would you prefer to receive feedback?
  • What kind of accommodations can we make so you don't feel like you're being micromanaged?

At the end of the day, the performance review should strengthen the company's relationship with its employees, improve performance, and enhance communication between employees and managers.

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