Do you remember the feeling you got in the pit of your stomach when it came time for your teacher to hand out report cards? It didn't matter whether you were expecting a good one or a bad one. You just couldn't be absolutely sure of what your teacher thought of you. The same is true of a performance review. You may be confident you've done a good job, yet you are still stressed out about it. After all, it can determine your whole future.
Employers often base their decisions about raises and promotions on performance reviews, which are also called employee appraisals and performance evaluations. Sometimes they even use them to determine whether or not to keep an employee. To let you in on a little secret, many managers dislike performance reviews as much as their subordinates do. They would much rather offer feedback on a more regular basis, but yet their employers require them.
Most people feel helpless when it comes to performance reviews. The person writing it really does wield a lot of power. It's his or her opinion of what you've done over the past year that goes into the report and therefore into your permanent file. Preparing for the review will not only alleviate some of your anxiety, it may help improve the outcome. You can also devise a strategy for dealing with a bad review. Here's what you need to do when you find out you have a review coming up.
- First, become familiar with the review process: Sometimes fear of the unknown is the worst part. You should understand why many employers use performance evaluations as a way to evaluate their employees. Theoretically the goal is to provide feedback, clearly communicate expectations and open up a dialogue with employees. In an ideal world this would be done more frequently than once a year, but that's not always how it happens.
- Next, prepare your own review: Make a list of all the achievements and accomplishments you had throughout the year. If you kept track of them, doing this should be fairly simple, but if you didn't, you will have to spend some time figuring out what you accomplished since your last review. Most importantly, make note of how your employer has benefited from your hard work, i.e. increased profits, a bigger client roster, retention of older clients. Then highlight everything you want to discuss. Review this material the night before you meet with your boss.
- What should you do if you get a poor review?: If you feel you have received an unfair review, you should consider responding to it. You should first try to discuss the review with the person who did it. Heed this warning, however. Wait until you can look at it objectively. Was the criticism you received really that off the mark or are you just offended that you were criticized in the first place? If you eventually reach the conclusion that the review was truly unjust, then make an appointment to meet with your reviewer. If there are any points that were correct, acknowledge those. Use clear examples that counteract the criticisms made. A paper trail is always helpful. Present anything you have in writing that can back you up. If you didn't leave a paper trail, remember to do this in the future.
- What should you take away from your performance review?: Ultimately, you should regard your review as a learning opportunity. You should be able to take away valuable information, whether it is about yourself or your reviewer. If you received valid criticism, figure out how to make improvements over the next year. Do you need to update your skills, manage your time better, or get to work on time more regularly? Maybe you just need to make yourself more visible so that your boss can be made aware of your accomplishments. If you came to the conclusion that your boss is impossible to please, just keep doing your job as best as you can.