No singular event causes employees more dread than the annual employee performance review. In many instances, this sense of anxiety exists because the employee perceives that the primary purpose of the review is for the supervisor to build a case in support of their position for the employee ranking process. The outcome of this ranking process is then used in the development of the employee’s salary treatment, which may create even more angst.
While it may be true that this is one of the expected outcomes, the review should also be viewed as an opportunity for employees to better understand how to build on their strengths, to identify opportunities for improvement and to learn how they can become more successful in their current position. The review also provides an opportunity for employees to communicate their long-term career goals and aspirations, and to see if these goals are viewed as realistic in the eyes of their supervisor and the organization. Another potential outcome could be the determination of whether improved performance requires not only employee commitment, but additional training and development.
Because of the importance of the review, it is best that the employee prepare well in advance of the review. Without some forethought, an employee could come out of the review with a less than desirable outcome. This lack of preparation could negatively affect how you are viewed by your supervisor, regardless of how well you have performed.
So what are some of the steps an employee can take to lessen the anxiety of the review and to help achieve a more desirable outcome?
- Make sure you understand the review process. What is the purpose of the review? How will the information developed in the review to be utilized? How is data gathered by the supervisor and from whom? The more you know about the process, the more confident you will feel about your participation.
- Gather information on your accomplishments. Take some time to review your files, notes, calendars, etc. to capture your major accomplishments during the review period. Be sure to focus on OUTCOMES, not EFFORT. It is particularly important that you do this with the goals and objectives that you and your supervisor agreed to at the start of the review period. Highlight the benefits and value realized from the achievement of these goals.
- Be honest about yourself. Self assessment is often a very difficult but important thing to do. How do you FEEL you did during the year? Were there any major failures and, if so, why? What could you have done differently that could have prevented the outcome? Focus on reasons, not excuses. These issues will come up anyway, so be prepared to respond in the most positive fashion.
- Identify new or improved skills that you acquired. Be specific about areas in which you felt you improved. Give specific examples to support your position. Highlight new skills that you acquired and how you went about developing them. Indicate how these benefit both you and the company.
- Describe how you overcame obstacles. Outline any unique challenges you faced during the year that could have negatively affected your performance. More importantly, describe in detail what you did to overcome them. How did you involve others to help you? What options did you consider before developing a plan to address them? What benefits did the company accrue because of your efforts? This will demonstrate to your supervisor that you used creativity and innovative thinking in addressing the challenges.
- Gather feedback from others. If getting performance from others in your organization is not an integral part of your organization’s process, gather the data on your own. Every employee has “suppliers’ and “customers”, even if they are internal to the company. Go to those people you interface with most often and seek their input. Identify not only what you do well, but ask them what you can do help make the relationship even more positive.
- Ask your manager for assistance. So much of your success depends on the type of relationship you have with your supervisor. Let them know what they do as your supervisor that is helpful to you in the accomplishment of your work. Additionally, inform them as to what they might do differently that would be of help. They may not be aware of how some their actions are serving as an obstacle to success. Also, ask for their support in getting those resources you might need to achieve your work goals and objectives.
- Do not be argumentative. There certainly may be occasions in the performance discussion where you and your supervisor are not in agreement. While it is perfectly OK to state your position in an appropriate fashion, do not get into an argument. Your boss may not be right, but he or she is still your boss! Indicate what actions you plan to take to address the differences of opinion. You don’t want to “win the battle, but lose the war”.
- End the discussion on a high note. You want to end the discussion on a positive note. Thank the supervisor for taking the time and making the effort to prepare for the discussion. Let them know that you appreciate them offering you the opportunity to discuss the outcomes of your efforts and your career goals. Express appreciation for their honesty in providing feedback and for their continued support. Reaffirm your commitment to build on your strengths, address your areas for improvement and to work to become an even better contributor to the success of the organization.
Don't dread it, use the review process to help you reach your goals. Follow these steps to leverage the process to your career advantage. Be open to feedback and partner with your manager to create a stronger relationship going forward.