7 Ways to Ace Your Next Performance Review

by Paul Michael on 9 January 2013 0 comments
Photo: Victor1558

For the most part performance appraisals are a lot of puffery, smoke and mirrors. They are done in a certain way, using certain guidelines, to keep the HR department compliant and to make sure everyone is relatively happy.

But at their core is something important. These reviews give you a chance to hit the reset button on some issues, and also air a few legitimate grievances. They are a way to show your real value to the company, and to highlight major achievements from the past year. So, if you have a performance review looming on the horizon, keep these seven quick tips in mind and be ready for the best one-on-one with your boss you’ve had all year. (See also: I Hate My Job! Now What?)

1. Know the Process Inside and Out

If you’ve ever watched the UK show “The Office” (one of the best comedy shows ever, by the way), you may remember the hysterical performance reviews. One in particular, between Keith and David Brent, showed the employee’s complete lack of interest, or knowledge, about the whole procedure. It did not go well. That’s comedy, but reality isn’t so far from that truth. Make sure you know how the forms work, know what needs to be filled in, ask questions to HR if you have them, and do a dry run. You don’t want to hand over something with spelling errors, crossed out words, and bad grammar.

2. Have Every Single Duck in a Row

If you’re about to sing a song about your worth to the company and your desire for a raise or promotion, you need more than a charming personality to back it up. Bring printouts of projects that you excelled in. If you got emails thanking you for a tremendous effort, bring those, too. And, do the research on your salary. If you’re currently making $45k a year, but Salary.com says you should be more in the $55-60k range, bring the evidence. It’s hard to argue with that facts.

3. Come With Questions

It’s been a year (hopefully) since your last performance review. In that time, questions should naturally have arisen that you need to ask. Well, now is the time to ask them. Why did you get passed over for a promotion or supervising role? Why did someone else get the project you were hoping for? Why were you excluded from meetings that you felt required your presence? And so on. It’s time for straight talk, and you deserve straight answers.

4. Address What Went Wrong

Was there a complete catastrophe at work? Did a client walk out of the door? Did a machine sputter and die due to something you were involved in? Did money go missing, and it cannot be explained?

Well, you need to explain it. All of it. You don’t want a black mark on your record because you could not prove you were not responsible for something bad that happened. And if you were, now is the time to explain exactly why, and how, things went wrong and what you’ve done to make sure it doesn’t go wrong again. Situations that escalate out of your control need to be explained. At the end of the day, bad things happen at work, but people rarely do them maliciously. You just need to make sure your employer knows that

5. Highlight Your Accomplishments

Now is not the time to be bashful or sit back and let others take credit. It's your review, you’re under the spotlight, and you deserve the accolades.

If you were a major participant in a big project, blow your own trumpet loud and clear. If you took the lead on a project, say so. If you spearheaded a major change within the company, let it be known that you were the one carrying the load. It’s time to get what you deserve, and you need to make it known loud and clear.

6. Take Detailed Notes or Record the Interview

I say this because it has happened to me on more than one occasion — things have been said, and promised, in performance reviews that did not come to fruition afterwards. I have been offered raises and promotions that were not forthcoming. I did not take notes or record conversations (ask permission to do this, but there should be no reason not to let you) and I did not sign anything in those reviews. Long story short, it was my word against the manager’s, and the manager had more clout than I did. Ideally, you could write down facts during the meeting, such as any promised raises, bonuses or promotions, and then have your manager sign your notes. That way, you are completely covered if things take a turn.

7. Bring Up Your Goals for the Future

Finally, what do you want out of your current, or future, role at the company? What would make you happy professionally? What courses do you want to take to grow in your chosen career? Do you want to travel more (or at all)? Do you want to work with other departments or expand your reach creatively? Do you want to be a key player on certain projects?

Goals are very important for performance reviews, as they set milestones for both you AND your company to reach. If you want to be better at your job, it will take the company’s help as well. And this is the perfect time to strike that bargain and find a way for you to improve. As you improve, the company benefits, too.

Those are my seven quick tips on how to ace that performance review. If you have more, feel free to let us all know in comments.

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