12 Examples of Employee Review Phrases

Employees need constructive feedback to be productive and improve their work performance, but writing and conducting effective employee reviews can be challenging. You need to communicate what you want your employees to know while motivating them to grow.

In this article, we’ll briefly explain what employee reviews are and why they matter. We’ll also provide some examples of effective review phrases you can use in different types of employee reviews.

12 Examples of Employee Reviews Phrases

What are employee reviews?

Employee reviews involve an employer analyzing an employee’s job performance to determine what they’re doing well and what they can improve on.

These reviews help employees build growth strategies to meet company and personal development goals. Most companies have a review schedule. For example, some conduct annual performance reviews, while others conduct reviews every quarter.

Good review phrases are specific, based on objective evidence, and often include advice for achieving measurable improvement. Average review phrases are vague, subjective, and don’t offer actionable advice.  

Why are employee reviews so important?

Giving performance feedback to employees is crucial. Otherwise, your staff might not know if they’re meeting company standards. Employee reviews help build a productive, positive work environment where employees feel valued.

Reviews help employers identify their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and see which employees can be promoted to future leadership positions. The review process helps employers build and grow a strong workforce.

Performance-based employee reviews

For a performance-based review,  an employer evaluates an employee’s work performance and ability to meet company goals for a period or specific project. Company goals could be related to quality, productivity, or cost. Performance appraisals help employees understand their roles.

Examples of performance-based reviews with helpful phrases

Here are a few examples of performance evaluations, with phrases you can use in each type. We’ve included vague review phrases and good review phrases to help illustrate the difference.

In a competency-based review, an employer judges an employee’s abilities and skills related to their position and job expectations.

  • Average review example. “Bob has good technical knowledge of his role but isn’t punctual.”
  • Good review example. “Bob demonstrates a deep understanding of the competencies related to his customer support role and has received many glowing five-star customer reviews. However, he struggles with punctuality and has arrived at the office late several times. I’ll meet with Bob weekly to help him find strategies to make it to work on time.”

In a project-based review, the employer analyzes an employee’s performance throughout a project.

  • Average review example. “Joanna has great leadership capabilities but struggles with communication.”
  • Good review example. “Joanna stepped up to provide excellent leadership to the development team when the previous project manager had to leave the project unexpectedly. However, she did forget to communicate several design changes to project stakeholders. In the future, Joanna will provide weekly project updates to stakeholders via email blasts.”

In a developmental review, an employer evaluates how an employee grows within the company.

  • Average review example. “Pedro puts in the effort to grow in his position but has trouble prioritizing tasks.”
  • Good review example. “Pedro demonstrated his commitment to growth within the marketing department by becoming a Tableau Certified Data Analyst. Pedro could improve his ability to prioritize critical tasks. He turned in an important sales report late, which delayed the launch of a brand campaign. I’ll have regular check-ins with Pedro to make sure he understands which tasks need immediate attention.”

Behavior-based employee reviews

A behavior-based review evaluates the way an employee acts. An employer might look at an employee’s communication skills, leadership abilities, work ethic, reliability, or general interactions with others.

It’s not enough to tell an employee they have a “bad attitude.” Instead, a specific action, like “Bill left work early on Wednesday without an explanation, abandoning his team the day before a project deadline,” can help the employee better understand the impact of their behavior.

Examples of behavior-based reviews with helpful phrases

Behavior-based reviews evaluate an employee’s character as opposed to their work results. Solid observations to back up your review phrases can help make them as objective as possible.

We provide some example scenarios when you might use behavior-based employee review phrases. Note that the actual reviews may not follow this somewhat condensed format. Assessments are typically categorized (such as teamwork being one category and communication being another).

Scenario 1. Alejandra is an administrative assistant at a consultancy firm.

  • Average review example. “Alejandra is very organized and a great team player, but she struggles with effective communication.”
  • Good review example. “Alejandra is an excellent team player. When our accounting staff was short-handed, she learned our accounting software to help keep records. However, she sometimes forgets to communicate imperative schedule changes to our staff. I’ll be working with Alejandra to figure out how to remind herself to notify the entire staff when there are schedule changes.”

Scenario 2. Dwayne is a graphic designer at a travel agency.

  • Average review example. “Dwayne has a great work ethic but trouble collaborating.”
  • Good review example. “Dwayne has an incredible work ethic. He stayed late every day for a week to design new brochures on a tight deadline. However, Dwayne needs to improve his listening skills. Some of his project teammates felt he didn’t listen to their ideas. I’ll give Dwayne more group projects this quarter and check in often to help him develop his collaboration skills.”

Scenario 3. Shayla is a sales associate at an insurance company.

  • Average review example. “Shayla is a strong communicator, but they needs to focus on her leadership abilities.”
  • Good review example. “Shayla is a fantastic communicator. They clearly explain our products to consumers and lead our department in sales. We’d like Shayla to improve their leadership capabilities so that they can move into a managerial role down the line. I’ll be mentoring them to help them grow these skills.”  

360-degree employee reviews

During 360-degree employee reviews (multirater reviews), employees get feedback from supervisors, peers, customers, and even direct reports.

A 360-degree review gives workers a big picture of how the rest of the staff views their work. These reviews also improve company culture and help staff feel comfortable giving honest feedback.

One way to organize your 360-degree review is by creating a survey form with a grading rubric. Leave space for comments. We provide an example of what a cross-section of a 360-degree review form might look like:

  • Great. The employee almost always meets or exceeds expectations. (4 points)
  • Average. The employee meets expectations much of the time. (3 points)
  • Needs improvement. The employee sometimes meets expectations. (2 points)
  • Poor. The employee consistently fails to meet expectations. (1 point)
Communication Poor Needs improvement Average Great
Clearly communicates Comments:
Is respectful and polite Comments:
Makes an effort to listen for understanding Comments:

Your full form will likely have several criteria for reviewers to consider. Some areas you might include are:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Ability to create innovative solutions
  • Time management
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Teamwork
  • Alignment to company objectives
  • Organization skills
  • Employee engagement
  • Dependability

Examples of 360-degree reviews

In a 360-degree review, you’ll likely see certain comments pop up repeatedly. Below are some examples of helpful 360-degree employee performance review phrases. You’ll notice that average review phrases tend to be simple and sometimes cliched, while effective review phrases add context.

Scenario 1. Josh is a customer support specialist for a software company.

  • Average review example. “Josh is reliable, but he isn’t always prepared.”
  • Good review example. “Customers can always rely on Josh to provide accurate information to help them solve technical issues. Josh needs to work on showing up to work better prepared. He’s arrived without necessary work tools several times. I’ll meet with him this quarter to brainstorm how he can improve this.”  

Scenario 2. Jada is a project manager at an architecture firm.

  • Average review example. “Jada is very organized but needs to be more empathetic.”
  • Good review example. “Jada is extremely organized and has led her team to deliver many projects ahead of schedule. However, her authoritative leadership style makes some team members feel undervalued. I’d like Jada to attend several team-building activities this year to develop empathy for her employees.”

Scenario 3. Diego is a quality assurance (QA) expert for a company that creates financial applications.

  • Average review example. “Diego is a good communicator but lacks attention to detail.”
  • Good review example. “Diego always communicates clearly with developers and other stakeholders when he notices a software issue and provides useful suggestions to help solve problems. However, Diego needs to improve his attention to detail. He’s mislabeled a few bugs in our system, delaying testing. Moving forward, Diego will slow down and double-check all his work before submitting it.”

Self-assessment employee reviews

Self-assessment reviews let employees evaluate their own work performance. Taking time for self-reflection gives employees a better understanding of their role in a company.

These reviews help promote a culture of accountability in the workplace. They also help employers understand their employees’ points of view and identify areas where staff might need extra support—like more resources or further training.

When you request a self-assessment, give your employees a template with a grading rubric to help them organize their ideas, such as:  

  • Great. The employee almost always meets or exceeds expectations. (4 points)
  • Average. The employee meets expectations much of the time. (3 points)
  • Needs improvement. The employee sometimes meets expectations. (2 points)
  • Poor. The employee consistently fails to meet expectations. (1 point)
Interpersonal skills Poor Needs improvement Average Great
I develop positive
working relationships
I manage conflict effectively Comments:
I listen to and emphasize with
team members

You can also ask your employees questions about their performance. For example:

  • What are the most important responsibilities of your role, and how do you demonstrate them?
  • Have you handled any tasks outside the general scope of your role? What are they?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest strengths and weaknesses related to your position?
  • What goals have you reached and not reached during this quarter—and how or why?
  • What are your professional development goals moving forward?
  • What are some areas where you could use additional support or training?

Examples of self-assessment reviews

Encourage employees to take the time to come up with accurate and meaningful insights about their work performance. We provide examples of self-assessment review phrases for different areas of performance. Average self-review phrases are generally straightforward, while good ones provide more evidence for an assessment.

Time management

  • Average review example. “I always complete quality work but struggle with prioritizing tasks.”
  • Good review example. “I complete tasks to the best of my ability and have been commended several times by my supervisor for my work. I sometimes struggle to prioritize tasks, and I’ve fallen behind on some important projects. In the future, I’ll use project management software to keep track of critical tasks.”


  • Average review example. “I’m good at communicating with management, but my interpersonal skills need work.”
  • Good review example. “I always communicate my ideas clearly with management. I contributed several ideas that helped the company save money this quarter. However, I have trouble working in teams. I’ve been told by members of the team that I can come off as standoffish in team meetings. This year, I’m taking a course to improve my interpersonal skills.”  

Technical skills

  • Average review example. “I’ve improved my technical skills in some areas, but there are other skills I still need to improve.”
  • Good review example. “As a new hire this period, I’ve taken several courses and implemented new strategies to improve my programming skills. However, I’m still learning how to do some technical duties of my position, like debugging. I’ve spoken to my supervisor about the best ways to get up to speed, and I’ll implement his advice this period.”

Tips for conducting effective employee reviews

The purpose of an employee evaluation should be to help your staff grow and optimize organizational efficiency and performance. We offer some tips to help you conduct employee reviews effectively.

  • Create a quarterly, yearly, or project review schedule. There’s nothing scarier than being pulled into your boss’s office randomly. Make sure your staff knows when they’re about to be reviewed.
  • Prepare a review agenda. Make sure everyone involved knows what will be discussed and how employees will be assessed before a review period begins.
  • Make your reviews objective. Observe your employees throughout the review period to provide evidence-based assessments compared to job expectations rather than assumptions.
  • Keep your tone positive. Praise what your employees do well and frame critical assessments as “areas of improvement” rather than “flaws.”
  • Develop practical strategies. Help your employees find development opportunities and build plans to improve their performance.
  • Listen to your employees. A good review is a conversation, not a lecture. Give your employees time to express their thoughts.
  • Set measurable goals. Help your employees set up measurable goals for success. For example, you might challenge a customer service representative (CSR) to improve their customer experience ratings by 20%.
  • Follow up. Continually monitor your staff’s performance and improvement, with appropriate comments on areas of focus from one review to the next.

Plan for your next review period with help from Upwork

Employee reviews can be a great performance management tool for helping your business grow, but only if you conduct them effectively. Using clear, specific review phrases with actionable advice can help you build a skilled, reliable workforce—with a positive attitude—that’s highly motivated to help your company succeed.

That said, employee reviews take a lot of time and planning, but you don’t have to do them alone. Let Upwork help you find experienced business coaches who can provide support for  establishing a regular and effective performance review process.

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12 Examples of Employee Review Phrases
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