It’s finally here – your manager is about to call you in to review your recent performance. Even if you feel that you’ve had a solid year of work, you’re likely finding yourself a bit nervous.

The most important part of participating in the performance review process is preparing for it. You may not know whether you’ll be praised or chastised, but jumping in without a plan is always a recipe for awkwardness and nerves.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to not only handle your review properly, but to be such an active part of the conversation that your boss is left pleased. Don’t think of the meeting as a way to defend yourself from blame, but as an opportunity to highlight your year’s achievements. You should come away empowered, which is a responsibility that both you and your manager share.

Here are 7 performance review phrases that every employee should use when it’s time for their meeting:

1. “How’s our organization/branch been running lately?” 

When you sit down for your meeting, you probably aren’t going to be dwelling on your company’s condition. That’s exactly why this is such an effective tactic – it tells your boss that you care about the business above all else. 

Asking the right questions about your company can show that you’re knowledgeable about big picture goals and interested in helping further them by connecting them with your work. It breaks the ice in a professional manner, and you get to learn some updates while you’re at it. 

Put your right foot forward and begin by demonstrating your dedication to contributing to the company’s success.

2. “I’m still so glad I’ve been given the opportunity to work here… (but)”

Don’t worry – I’m not ordering you to be delighted with your position. Even if they don’t show it, your manager is certainly concerned with job satisfaction around the workplace.

If you genuinely enjoy your job, great! Don’t let your manager forget that you’re grateful to be here and that you love your time at work.

What most employees don’t end up doing is discussing any dissatisfaction with their jobs. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this, and it can often depend on your environment and the relationship you have with your superiors.

The number one thing to remember is not to complain – even if you’re best friends with your boss, a performance review is not the time to complain. Communicate any displeasure with your position delicately, and with a suggestion to mend it. Letting your boss know you’re unhappy isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you demonstrate your honesty, and you could end up getting it fixed.

3. “I think I made a big impact when I…”

Here’s the one that everyone wants to do, but isn’t sure how. It’s definitely important to remind your manager of the goals you’ve reached and the progress you’ve made, since they might not remember alongside a dozen other team members.

The technique here is to show solid proof of your accomplishments, whether through numbers, anecdotes or projects you’ve worked on. An especially effective method is showing an increase in productivity throughout the year, if you have the statistics to back it up. It’s a great idea to keep a record/log of them for this very reason.

Showing your manager evidence of your success both validates your aptitude and shows your knowledge of the business’ progress throughout the year.

Oh, also, make sure you aren’t bragging. Wait for a natural opening to start discussing your achievements, and emphasize that you’ve been working hard to help the team.

4. “How can I better help the team?

This is also an underrated performance review phrase example. By asking how you can help the team (or office, branch, etc.) you do two things effectively.

For one, you again display genuine interest in being an asset to your business’ success. Selfishness is not a characteristic of yours; you’d love to be an essential part of the team’s development.

The second reason to ask this is to give your manager an easy avenue to mention any criticism they have of your performance. Even if you’ve had a stellar year, constructive criticism is to be expected during your review. Asking how you can help lets your boss frame critiques in a more positive light.

For example, he or she may want to tell you that you’ve been spending too long on single phone calls to clients. After asking how you can help, they might say, “I would suggest ending your phone calls a little more quickly so you can get extra work done during that time.” It fits naturally into the conversation and conveys their feedback without it feeling blunt.

5. “Sure, I understand.”

Sometimes you just might find yourself facing more admonishment than you expect. You should always accept criticism respectfully – reacting well to criticism is a clear sign of maturity and respect, while reacting poorly is… not.

If your manager’s reprimands are mostly accurate, the best way to respond is by fixing the issues. Debating your stance only digs your hole deeper, even if it’s frustrating to accept what they have to say.

That said, there are times when a criticism your boss lays out is indisputably not your fault, or even untrue. If you do disagree with them, it’s crucial to make sure you can defend your case with proof, or else it can feel like an argument. Mistakes can be made; if your manager makes an incorrect assessment and you can clarify in your defense, you’ll help your image and show the ability to stand up for yourself. Typically, though, they’re probably not making a mistake in their review, and that’s A-okay.

6. “So, let’s talk about where I’ll be this time next quarter/year.”

After reviewing your performance in detail, you can then turn ahead to discuss the upcoming year. Reference the numbers from this past year in order to plan goals for the future.

Perhaps you’ve increased your sales by 20% – aim to increase them by another 20% throughout the next year. If there’s a huge project waiting in the near future, pledge to be one of the most active forces behind completing it.

Your manager will love your initiative, and if you complete the goals you set, you’ll already be set up for next year’s evaluation. Try using SMART goals or OKRs when planning; they facilitate progress and they make you look that much more organized!

7. “Something I’ve been noticing is…”

That’s right, you can and should use the performance review process to give your own feedback. It’s another tip that varies on a case-by-case basis. Your boss is likely open to hearing feedback from their staff, and if you ask permission to do so at the end of your assessment, it would be the perfect opportunity to let them know your side of the workplace experience.

Not every supervisor is open to hearing honest feedback, though – if yours isn’t, I have a feeling you already know it.

If your boss does have an open mind, then take the time to let them know your thoughts on how the year has been from a management/enablement perspective. Don’t forget to keep it respectful!

For one, keep your thoughts generally positive for the sake of civility. It’s also important to remember to frame any negative feedback in a non-personal way; if you wish they led the team differently, refer to the “way things are run” rather than the way they make their decisions.

Your opinions can make a quantifiable difference – a Gallup study found that managers who received feedback on their strengths showed 8.9% greater profitability after the review. 

Finding the right tone of honest suggestions can leave your boss impressed and ready to tweak some things around the workplace.

Now that you’re fully equipped with these tips, you can stop dreading your annual performance reviews and start looking forward to them. Study up and blow your manager away!

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