10 Things to Bring Up With Your Boss at Your Annual Review


Every year, you will have that one meeting that can have a massive impact on your career, your finances, and your future. It's your annual review. While some people see it as a necessary evil, or approach it as "going through the motions," it should be thought about carefully. What you say can make all the difference.

1. Talk About Your Achievements Over the Past Year

Your boss may already know all the great things you've done. However, they may also be too busy to know everything you've done, or your level of involvement in the projects you took part in. This is your time to shine, and to give your boss the ammunition needed to give you a raise or a promotion. Don't just talk about the things you were assigned to do. Mention the projects you did on your own, or the initiatives you spearheaded. If there were significant financial benefits to the company, or great PR came from something you did, bring all that to the conversation. You want to take this time to show just how invaluable you really are.

2. Focus on You, Not on Others

Unless you work for some kind of utopia, you'll be surrounded by a mixed bag of people. Most will be great, and you'll get along well with them. Some, however, will be a constant thorn in your side. They may take the credit for things you've done. They may be lazy, or incompetent. They may suck up to the boss, or leave early every day. It doesn't matter. This is your review, and it's about you. If you turn this into a whining session, you will not look good. If the person in question is as bad as you know them to be, it will all come out… probably during his or her review. And if it doesn't, well, find the time to talk it over with the boss later. But your review — that's all about you, not your worst enemy. Similarly, don't tell the boss what he or she did wrong over the last year, and never use this time to pour scorn on the company. You're looking for a raise or a promotion. That is unlikely to happen if you are biting the hand that feeds you.

3. Ask How You Can Be Even More Help to the Company

The phrasing on this one has to be correct. You don't want to sound like there's lots of room for improvement in your performance. But, showing a willingness to do more, work harder, and take on extra projects will always go down well. Do some preparation and see where you could fill some holes. Ask your boss if you can help bring other departments up to par with your own (assuming you're rocking it). Find out what the boss wants to improve upon, and be proactive. If there's one thing a company likes more than a model employee, it's a model employee who takes the initiative.

4. Be Careful What You Ask For

You may have worked late nights and weekends all year long. You may well have saved the company millions of dollars, or landed a cherry account. All of this will be covered over the course of your actual review. By pushing the issue of more money, and a raise in position, you're moving out of the go-getter category, and into the greedy one. You'll be viewed as entitled, or worse, only in it for the money and ladder-climbing. If the subject comes up naturally, you can of course take the boss's lead, and mention that you are ready for more responsibility. Promotions come with raises, so you don't need to talk about dollars yet. And in most companies, significant raises are not given without a promotion anyway.

5. Ask Questions and Be Conversational

Annual reviews can be tough on the boss. If he or she has a lot of people to see, it can be a daunting task. So doing a review with someone who won't speak until they are spoken to, and gives one word answers, is no fun at all. This is your chance to really get into the review, and make it more of a give and take than a one-way street. Ask questions about the direction the company is going, or what you can do to make the boss's life easier. Get chatty, without getting too nonchalant or blasé. This will leave a lasting impression on your boss.

6. Don't Let Your Requests Seem Like Threats

Saying you will quit unless things are changed in your favor — that's a threat. And it can go down in a few ways. If you are incredibly valuable to the company, and at the current time are irreplaceable, your demands may well be met. But, you will be viewed differently after the fact, and no boss or company likes to be held over a barrel. They will be making plans to replace you in the long term.

However, most of the time, you just won't get your own way by making threats. And you have to be ready to get your bluff called; if it is a bluff, of course. If you say you will leave unless you get X, Y, and Z, and those demands are not met, you only have two options: leave, or look foolish. Are you ready for either of those outcomes?

7. Ask for Clear Goals for the Future

An annual review is there not just to look over the past year, but to set career goals for the year ahead. It's a way of saying, "If you do all this, and more, you can expect good things at your next review." So don't let those goals be vague, or go unaddressed. As the meeting starts to wrap up, ask for specific goals for the next year that you can write down. After the meeting, email them to the boss, and if need be, HR. When your next review comes around, and you have done more than what was asked of you, you will have great ammunition for a raise and promotion.

8. Be Wary of Too Much Honesty

Remember that this is a review, and not a conversation with a friend. Don't say that you're "bored" or that you're "doing the bare minimum." Being bored is on you. Doing only the bare minimum is also on you. You are an adult, and you can influence the kind of work you do. There is always the chance to take on more work, create new initiatives, or find ways to make your department grow. If you're bored, you're simply not trying. By indicating you have lost interest in your job, you are telling your boss to go out and find someone who would kill to be in your shoes. The boss wants an enthusiastic, driven employee. If you are beyond saving, why not give that role to someone who genuinely wants it? Instead, use this time to ask for more responsibility, or bring up new ideas. You'll look like a go-getter.

9. Accept Full Responsibility for the Things You Did Wrong

You're not a kid in middle school. You cannot say, "I didn't do that" or "But that wasn't really my fault." As an adult employee, you have to own your mistakes, and show that you have learned from them. If you missed a deadline, admit it. But explain how you will do things differently to ensure it never happens again. If you cost the company money, or a sale, tell the boss why it happened, and what you have learned from it. As Thomas Edison famously said, "I have not failed… I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." You can turn any of these negatives from the past year into avenues for personal growth that will benefit you, the boss, and the company.

10. Maintain a Positive Attitude

You may have had one a heck of a bad year. The tension between you and the boss may be so thick that it fills the room. However, your attitude needs to be positive, and you should be genuinely interested in what you can do to make things right. Saying "Wow, I have so, so been looking forward to this," sarcastically is not going to do you any favors. You will set the wrong tone for the rest of the review, and nothing good will come of it. Use this as a chance to clear the air in a way that makes you both feel like progress has been made.

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