Work: Performance Reviews are Your Friends (I Promise)

Nervous about your employee review?

No question, it can be daunting to sit down with your boss and frankly assess your job performance, but it can also be incredibly beneficial, especially if you prepare ahead of time and approach it with the right attitude.  When I was just starting out, I found the prospect  seriously intimidating. But once I figured out how good employee reviews could be, it became my favorite time of year.  Don’t roll your eyes! It’s true for me and it could be for you too!

Whether or not your company has a formal review schedule, you should seek out some form of review with your boss at least once a year.  A good manager will welcome the opportunity, and even a bad manager will appreciate that you care about the quality of your job performance

A quick side note here about “bad” managers: chances are very very high that at some point in your career, you’ll have one.  It’s simply part of the working world. When it happens to you (or if it’s happening right now!) don’t waste time and energy wishing your manager would change to fit your needs (because she won’t). Instead, seek to understand and adapt as best you can to your manager’s communication style and the needs and pressures of her job, and focus your energies on doing your job excellently.

Okay, back to employee review!

Preparation for a good review starts early, and I mean really early.  Throughout the year, keep track of your successes. It may help to compile a “review” folder including personal notes, examples of especially noteworthy work, and any emails or comments from third parties complimenting your efforts.  When review time comes around, take the goals that were set for you by you and your boss at the beginning of the year and do a self assessment, citing concrete examples wherever possible.

Be sure to give your self-assessment to your boss ahead of time, so that she has the facts and she also knows where your perceptions of performance may have a gap on the upside or the downside. If you don’t have clear goals or don’t know them, this can take a little legwork, but here are the questions you need to ask:

Also prepare goals for the coming year and give them to your boss prior to the meeting so that you can agree upon where you are to be focused and how your results will be measured.

Go in with a very open and positive attitude and be ready to learn from the time together. Yes, YOU MIGHT HEAR SOMETHING THAT’S UNCOMFORTABLE, but here’s the thing: you do some things really well, and that’s great.  You can keep doing those things well forever, but if that’s all you do, your overall job performance will never really improve. The only way to truly get better at your job is to target your weaknesses, and that means being open to hearing about them.

If you can, try meeting somewhere away from the office (over lunch or coffee) so that the atmosphere is more casual and relaxed. Be prepared to give your boss feedback too (diplomatically of course!). This is a two way conversation, and a boss will often ask you how she can work with you better. Do you work best with clear deadlines or open-ended projects? Would you benefit from a more flexible schedule or do you respond better to structure? A thoughtful answer shows that you care about doing your job as well as possible.

Consider scheduling a short follow-up meeting a month or two after your review to discuss your progress in any “development” areas.  I know, I know, you were nervous about one review, and I’m asking you to schedule extras.  But it shows great initiative, and as a manager, nothing is better than knowing an employee is committed to improvement.

Any questions? Ask them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer!