9 Professional Synonyms for “Not Meeting Expectations”

Are you trying to find the best way to tell someone they aren’t meeting expectations?

Well, you’re probably thinking that “not meeting expectations” is a bit insincere or unprofessional.

Luckily, we’re here to provide some answers for you.

This article will show you how to tell an employee they are not meeting expectations.

Is It Professional to Say “Not Meeting Expectations”?

It is professional to say “not meeting expectations.”

It’s good phrasing that keeps things direct and to the point. So, if you’re going to use it to tell an employee they aren’t meeting expectations, it’ll work really well.

Check out this email example of how to tell an employee they are not meeting expectations:

Dear Milo,

I have taken a look at your most recent performance report.

Please note that I have ruled that you are not meeting expectations.

I would like to meet with you to discuss more about this when possible.

Thank you,
Jon Wilkinson


  • It’s professional.
  • It’s direct and lets employees know immediately that you’d like them to improve their work.


  • It’s pretty generic.
  • It’s not the most polite or kind way to show someone that they’re underperforming.

Generally, “not meeting expectations” will work really well in formal contexts. However, that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to it as your only option.

Keep reading to learn how to say “not meeting expectations” in an email at work. We’ve gathered the best synonyms to show you the best phrases to include in your writing.

What to Say Instead of “Not Meeting Expectations”

  • Falling short of expectations
  • Not up to par
  • Below the expected standard
  • Not fulfilling requirements
  • Failing to meet the standard
  • Disappointing performance
  • Not living up to the desired level
  • Missing the mark
  • Not meeting the set standards

1. Falling Short of Expectations

Let’s start with “falling short of expectations.” It’s an excellent synonym that allows you to say “not meeting expectations” at work.

Generally, this works well in a performance review. It allows you to directly assess an employee on their standards and whether they’re meeting the expectations laid out.

It’s formal and sincere. So, it’s a good choice if you want your employees to pay attention and show them that they need to up their game if they’re going to impress you.

Feel free to refer to this email example to learn more about it:

Dear Adam,

I’m afraid you will learn that you are falling short of expectations in your performance review.

However, I believe we can work on this together.

Best regards,
Daniel Sherrin

2. Not Up to Par

If you’re looking for something a bit more personal, try using “not up to par.”

This phrase works well when an employee is not living up to your expectations. It’s effective because it shows that you need them to improve quickly.

Of course, “not up to par” doesn’t strictly mean you will fire someone. However, it does mean an employee will need to work much harder to impress you.

This is effective because it encourages employees to do better. If they’re not up to par, they’ll more than likely like to know why and what they can do to improve their performance.

Feel free to check out this sample email to learn more if you’re still unsure:

Dear Michaela,

I’m afraid your work is not up to par at the moment.

I’d like you to keep trying, as I’m certain you’ll be able to improve it moving forward.

All the best,
Sheila Broadchurch

3. Below the Expected Standard

It’s hard to know what to say when expectations were not met in the workplace. You might not want to immediately make someone feel bad for a lackluster performance.

That’s where “below the expected standard” comes in. It’s not rude. Instead, it’s direct and informative.

It lets an employee know that they need to work on their performance. Generally, this should be all the encouragement they need to improve and see what they can change.

Also, you can review this email sample to learn more about how it works:

Dear Randall,

You are currently below the expected standard.

So, I would like for you to meet with me to discuss what your next steps should be.

All the best,
Joseph Quinn

4. Not Fulfilling Requirements

Next, you can include “not fulfilling requirements” as another way to say “not meeting expectations.”

It works well in a formal letter to an employee. This is a direct and honest way to tell an employee that they need to correct a few things about their performance.

If an employee is happy to work on themselves, this should be all the encouragement they need. It’s polite and informative, which allows it to work well without offending them.

Feel free to review this letter sample if you’re still unsure:

Dear Abbie,

Currently, you are not fulfilling requirements in the workplace.

However, I do have a few suggestions that might help you to improve.

Kind regards,
Melissa McDonald

5. Failing to Meet the Standard

You can use “failing to meet the standard” when someone has failed to meet expectations.

Sure, “failing” is a strong word, but sometimes strong words will help to get your point across.

If you’re telling an employee that they need to improve, a phrase like this will go a long way. It’ll make your performance review more effective and let employees know when you’re not impressed.

Generally, this is a great way to keep people in line. It’s formal and sincere, so people will tend to take it much more seriously than a simple “not meeting expectations.”

You can review the following sample email to learn a bit more:

Dear Horace,

You are failing to meet the standard I’m looking for at the moment.

I hope we can meet soon to discuss this, as I’d like to help you improve.

Sharon Carpenter

6. Disappointing Performance

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to say when you’re disappointed with someone’s workload.

But that’s where “disappointing performance” comes in handy. It’s another word for “not meeting expectations” that shows you’re unhappy with the standards set by an employee.

For the most part, this is a direct and honest way to let someone know they need to work on themselves.

Also, using a word like “disappointing” shows that you’re currently upset with someone, but you’re open to changing your mind.

So, you can review this example if you’d like to learn more about how it works:

Dear Taylor,

I’m afraid this is a bit of a disappointing performance from you.

While I expected more, I’m certain we’ll still be able to work through this together.

Georgia Adams

7. Not Living Up to the Desired Level

You can use “not living up to the desired level” in a business email to replace “not meeting expectations” as well.

It’s a formal and direct way to show employees you have a specific standard. Generally, this works best when an employee is falling short and you’d like to encourage them to improve.

After all, when someone isn’t performing, the last thing we want to do is get rid of them. The first step is always to try and make them work “at the desired level.”

You should review this sample email to learn a bit more:

Dear Katie,

You are not living up to the desired level at the moment.

With time, I know that will change. However, I wanted to give you a quick briefing about it.

Best regards,
Dan Kent

8. Missing the Mark

We also think it’s wise to say someone is “missing the mark.” This is a great way to remain more friendly and personal when you’re unsure about someone’s performance.

Just because someone isn’t meeting expectations doesn’t mean you need to tell them off.

Sometimes, it’s better to be more approachable and friendly. Performance reviews like this will help the employee to work on their mistakes without them feeling attacked.

So, you should use this to remind an employee to do better. It also works best if you offer help to improve their standards in the same email.

Feel free to review this example to learn a bit more about how it works:

Dear Jennifer,

I think you know you’re missing the mark at the minute.

I would like to meet with you to talk about it and see if there’s anything I can do to help, though.

George Marsh

9. Not Meeting the Set Standards

Finally, you can write “not meeting the set standards.” This shows someone that they did not meet expectations when doing a performance review.

You can use it because it’s formal and direct. It shows that you’re a little disappointed with someone’s performance and you’d like for them to adjust a few things.

Again, it’s best to avoid causing offense when possible. That’s why phrases like this tend to go a long way.

So, you can check out this email sample before you leave to learn more:

Dear Doris,

You are not meeting the set standards based on the work you sent me.

So, I have some suggestions that I’d like you to look through.

All the best,
Jeffrey Tanner