Re-frame Your Performance Review

The dreaded annual performance review. In addition to pay increases, reviews offer other opportunities, like securing flextime/extra vacation days or development resources, improving the relationship between you and your boss, identifying the path to your next promotion and getting feedback to help your career. How you take advantage of this time and process, where the focus is all about you, is up to you.

This week’s focus: How to maximize the opportunities your review presents.

The “self evaluation” part of your review process is your chance to demonstrate your value.

  • Provide documentation of your accomplishments, particularly any results/benefits to the team and company (keep a log/file throughout the year so you aren’t starting from scratch when you sit down to write your review).

Focus on numbers and concrete examples, such as appreciative e-mails.

  • Whatever form your company uses, note key successes and emphasize any outstanding contributions, challenges overcome, growth you have made and new responsibilities you have taken on.
  • If asked about your challenges or weaknesses, try to be objective. Resist the temptation to claim you have none. We all have areas for improvement and your boss is likely well aware of yours.

If the boss thinks you can’t see your own shortcomings, the boss becomes concerned that you are a) unaware, and therefore unable to grow, or b) aren’t being straightforward and honest. Neither of these serves you.

Tips for the review conversation (I deliberately use the word “conversation;” your performance review is your opportunity to have an important dialogue with your boss regarding your relationship and your career!):

  • If your boss isn’t clear about how you spend your day, enlighten him or her. Revisit your role, job expectations and what your boss views as your priorities.

Ask for clarification about anything that is confusing or unclear.

  • Find out what keeps your boss awake at night so you can figure out how to help and increase your likelihood for a raise or promotion next year.
  • Address any relationship issues, such as ongoing annoyances that frustrate either of you. For receptive bosses, offer feedback or requests on how the boss can better support you to be successful in the future (what you would like more, or less, of from them). Let your boss know what you need to do your job better, such as resource support during rush or busy periods, new software programs or any self/leadership improvement support like personal coaching, training or academics.
  • Looking ahead to 2009, negotiate goal setting. You should be comfortable that your targeted goals are reasonably “doable.” Try to get detail about what specific actions or behaviors your boss wants (i.e., projects completed, sales targets, units produced or customer complaints handled, etc).
  • At the end of your review, summarize what was said (and agreed to) and then submit a document that captures these.
  • If you want more money, ask for it (it surprises me how many workers fail to ask) and make a solid case. Base your request on what you have brought in.

Quantify your value and contributions. If you can’t get the money you want now, see if you can get your boss to agree to a bonus or increase based on hitting targeted goals along the way in ’09. If not, try for flextime, extra vacation days, etc.

  • Lastly, thank your boss for his or her time and consideration.

How to receive any critical feedback your boss may offer during your review:

  • Attitude matters. Don’t sit there glowering with your arms crossed. Your career advancement may depend on how you react to the information and what you do with it.
  • Listen to understand first before you go into automatic defend or deny mode. Ask clarification questions. Summarize what you hear to make sure you have it correct. Offer any rebuttals professionally.
  • Ask your boss what he or she wants you to do differently. Explain how you will keep a negative from happening again: “I understand how my actions might have been perceived that way. Next time, I will handle it by … .” Or, “I want to strengthen our team and improve.”

A reminder: feedback is information from someone else’s perspective. Receiving tough feedback is an opportunity to learn about yourself and how your behaviors or actions are interpreted by another. If it’s something you have been blind to (and that can hinder your career advancement) it may well be a gift because now you can do something about it. If you can’t find a shred of truth in any of it, check in with others to see if your boss’ perspective is shared. In the end, you have to decide what to do with it.

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