15 Things to Say at Your Next Performance Review (Examples)

Your guide to impressing your boss.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Performance Review

The formality of an annual review can be just as dreaded by your manager as it is by you. However, these formal work meetings are unavoidable. So, since there’s no escaping, the best thing to do is to prepare for them as thoroughly as possible. After all, performance reviews can be a great way for you to highlight your achievements and discuss any concerns you have.

To help you articulate your thoughts and feelings clearly and professionally, we’ve put together this list of things to say at your next self-appraisal, and highlighted the importance of getting it right!

The importance of performance reviews

A performance review (sometimes referred to as a performance appraisal) is a two-way conversation between an employee and their manager, an opportunity to give and receive constructive feedback and set goals.

As such, performance reviews provide a great opportunity to workers to discover areas for improvement, express and sort out concerns, and negotiate more responsibility, a higher salary or a promotion. This, of course, is vital in a person’s career advancement and can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction.

Employers who fail to conduct regular performance reviews, therefore, risk making their employees feel undervalued, confused and stationary, which often has dire repercussions on the company itself.

Things to say in a performance review

Many employees experience anxiety around performance reviews, unsure of what they might hear and how to express their wants and concerns truthfully. If you can relate to this, the following 15 points can help you organize your thoughts and make it easier to express yourself.

1. Talk about your achievements

Discussing your achievements is a good way to impress your boss and highlight what you’ve been up to since your last meeting. Remember: your manager won’t know exactly what you do on a daily basis, and they may unintentionally be oblivious to the great things you’ve accomplished.

However, it’s no good to simply brag about all your hard work — you’ll need to provide solid proof, too. So, prepare a list of targets you’ve met and projects you’ve worked on, and maybe even print out a couple of emails from clients praising your excellent customer service and work ethic.

This will essentially help jolt your boss’s memory and allow you to establish new career goals together.

2. Talk about a raise

If you want to bring up the topic of a salary review, now is the perfect time to ask. However, we advise against saying something blunt and tactless like “Can I have a raise?” Instead, you should list all your achievements and explain the reasons why you feel you deserve a pay increase.

If you’re a key player, and the budget allows it, there will be no reason for your boss to refuse your request. At the end of the day, they want to make sure that you’re happy at the company and that you’re motivated to keep performing well.

3. Ask about the development of the business

This question is great for a number of reasons. For one, you show interest in the overall development of the business and eagerness to understand where you fit into the bigger picture. Seeing how your seemingly not-so-important tasks are actually contributing to the company’s success can be motivating.

It also suggests that you’re thinking beyond your day-to-day tasks and that you’re keen to see how you can contribute to the company’s overall mission.

4. Set clear goals

A yearly evaluation is the perfect time to set clear goals for your professional development. For example, if you want to progress to a higher seniority level, you’ll need to take on extra tasks and prove that you have what it takes.

Through the two-way discussion with your manager, you’ll be able to identify and set clear performance goals for the following year. It will also give you something to base your progress on, which will help when the time comes for the following year’s review.

5. Give feedback to your manager

As mentioned earlier, a performance review is a two-way street. It’s intended to help you, as well as your manager and the organization. So, if you feel that your manager isn’t giving you enough attention or, on the contrary, is breathing down your neck too much and micromanaging you, now is your chance to let them know.

Your honest feedback can help them progress within their own role, and they’ll most likely appreciate it, especially if other employees are too intimidated to mention anything.

6. Ask how you can help

Even if you’ve got a lot on your plate already, there’s probably a number of things you can do differently or a series of new tasks that you could take on. So, it’s always a good idea to ask your manager how you can be of more help to the team.

Here, you’ll want to direct the conversation towards any underutilized skills you may possess that could be of use. This should show that you’re keen to get involved in other projects and care about playing an active role in the company’s success.

7. Suggest new tools you could use

With technology evolving so rapidly, there are always going to be new tools that can be beneficial to a company. However, a lot of the time, these go undetected by managers because they’re so busy. This is where you come in! You can keep an eye out and suggest new tools and software that could improve collaboration and efficiency.

Just be sure to do your research and provide testimonials from other customers. This will allow you to demonstrate a number of leadership skills, such as confidence, proactivity and decision making.

8. Ask for clarifications

If there’s something that you don’t understand, it’s perfectly fine to ask for clarifications. For example, if you’re discussing a new project that you’re taking on, be sure to ask for clear instructions before you walk out of the room.

Similarly, if your manager has pointed out an error you were unaware of committing, don’t be afraid to ask for further information. Now is your chance to defend your actions and share your side of the story.

9. Discuss your future

If you’ve been in the same position for a while, your career may begin to stagnate, which is bad for both yourself and your employer. In order to stay motivated and efficient, you need to be satisfied with your duties and responsibilities, which is why it’s important to have a conversation with your boss.

Don’t be scared to ask them about growth opportunities within the company or to share where you see yourself in the next five years, and ask if they can help you achieve those goals. As a manager, it’s their duty to help you progress and succeed, so they’ll be more than happy to do so.

10. Suggest new practices

A dedicated employee that uses their initiative will strive for success and find ways to work more efficiently. If there are areas of concern, don’t be shy to bring them up and discuss new practices to follow. Just make sure you have a solution to a problem; don’t just bring up a problem, because that won’t help anyone!

At the same time, you can also list what is working well. You know the drill: say something positive before something negative so it doesn’t sound like all you’re doing is being judgmental.

11. Discuss your happiness

It’s important that you let your employer know if you’re happy or unhappy in your role. There’s no need to torment yourself for months if there’s something they can do to make it better. And they would much rather help you achieve your goals than train a new candidate from scratch if you decide to give up and leave.

If you have ideas as to what could make you feel content at work, do bring them up, whether it’s working on a new project or enjoying better work–life balance. It’s important to discuss your feelings, especially if you want an open line of communication with your boss.

12. Ask for more frequent meetings

If you only have a yearly catch-up with your boss and don’t seem to talk much otherwise, ask for more frequent meetings.

During these chats, you can discuss your progress, any new suggestions you may have, as well as your plans for the coming months. It will help keep your goals and the company’s aligned as well as ensure you’re on a productive path for the rest of the year. Sometimes, all you need is some positive feedback to stay focused and motivated.

13. Be honest about what isn’t working

As an employee, you’re in the trenches, so to speak. You follow business operation plans put in place by someone else, with restrictions to the decisions and initiatives you can take upon yourself. Therefore, you’re probably also among the first to notice and be impacted by figurative roadblocks, whether that’s inadequate interdepartmental communication, outdated tools or something else.

Although your boss has reasons for how they choose to do things, their line of vision isn’t level with yours when it comes to day-to-day processes. If something is costing your team precious time and increasing stress levels and the likelihood of mistakes, now is the time to bring it up.

14. Mention any training you’d like to do

To make your goal setting more defined and specific, let your manager know of any online courses, workshops or certifications you’ve come across that you believe could help you enhance your efficiency at work.

To get your boss on board with this, consider the direction you want to be steering your career in. This will allow you to convey the benefits of receiving extra training to your boss, making it likelier for them to fund the training or allow you to pursue it during work hours.

Presenting your career progression as a win-win situation for the both of you is key to negotiating this successfully.

15. Inquire about a promotion

Let’s say you’ve got a few years of experience under your belt and have been crushing your individual and group projects for a while. If your manager acknowledges your consistent efforts and great performance, consider seizing this opportunity to inquire into a promotion.

Before bringing this up, however, make sure you understand the requirements of this new role you’re after. If you’re a midweight designer and want to advance to a senior position, for example, read up on what duties and responsibilities a senior designer has, and explain how your current skill set and expertise will allow you to do a good job should you move another step up the ladder.

How to prepare for a performance review

Employee performance reviews require some preparation from both sides. If you don’t know where exactly to get started with yours, following the five points outlined below can make the process more straightforward.

1. Consider your career goals

Asking for what you want has one main prerequisite: knowing what you want. That’s why considering your short- and long-term goals is the first step to preparing for your performance review.

Take time to think not only about what you want to achieve but also why you want to achieve it. Having a clear sense of purpose will resonate with your manager.

2. Identify how you’ve grown professionally

The second step to preparing for your performance review is to identify your quantifiable achievements as well as the knowledge and skills you’ve gained since your previous review. For example, you might have strengthened your time management skills, become proficient in using a specific software, or developed a product prototype in under a month.

3. Come up with at least one request

Managers expect their team members to ask for things during reviews, be that more responsibility, additional training or a higher salary. Doing so can show that you’re clear about your goals and determined to achieve them, all the while eager to offer something back to the company by taking on new duties.

4. Make notes of what you want to say

A University of Tokyo study showed that writing things down can help you recall the information better. So, write down the points you want to cover in your meeting in bullet point form.

If you can recall the points you want to make with ease, as well as the reasoning behind them, you should feel comfortable conveying your thoughts to your manager.

5. Be open to receiving constructive criticism

If hearing unanticipated critical remarks tends to shake you up, you’ll need to figure out ways to stay calm in the face of feedback and not get defensive. Remember,:faultlessness does not exist, not even among the most experienced professionals. Plus, mistakes are often the greatest teachers.

For an overview of what to say, including some key performance review phrases you’ll want to use, watch our video:

Key takeaways

Now that you’re fully equipped with what to say in your appraisal, you can confidently walk into your boss’s office and knock that performance review right out of the park!

To summarize what we’ve talked about in this article:

  • Effective performance reviews rely on constructive feedback (from both sides!) to arrive at a mutually constructed plan for employee growth and development.
  • Highlighting your strengths and achievements during the review is important, but so is asking for specific feedback, owning up to mistakes and showing willingness to learn.
  • Making a handwritten list of all the points you’d like to discuss in your meeting can help you retain the information better.
  • Receiving critical feedback can make people defensive, even if they don’t realize it. Observe your reactions during the meeting and try to maintain your active listening.

Have you got any other useful tips on what to say in a performance review that you’d like to share? If so, join in the conversation below and let us know!

Originally published on September 14, 2018. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.