Depending on your source, performance reviews are dying, broken … or absolutely essential to a company’s success. One thing they’re not, however, is going away entirely — at least, not anytime soon.
That’s bad news for workers who dread review time (i.e., most of them). However, even if you’d rather spend your day at the DMV or the dentist than participating in your annual review, there are things you can do to make your evaluation a more positive and productive experience. Start by asking yourself if you’re making one of these common performance review mistakes.
7 Common Performance Review Mistakes:
1. You’re Not Prepared
Many organizations ask employees to write a self-assessment as the first part of their performance evaluation. Don’t hurry through this step — and don’t let it be the sum total of your preparation for your review.
Prepare for your eval by reviewing your goals, which are usually set at last year’s review or when you begin a new position. Then look back at your accomplishments for the year above and beyond meeting those expectations. Have you taken on more responsibility, or added a new and valuable skill, or played a pivotal role in a big success for the company?
Best-case scenario, you would be logging all these wins on a weekly basis. But if you’re not in the habit of doing so, you can reconstruct an accounting by looking back at your calendar, email and/or project management applications.
2. You Wait for Review Time to Bring Up Important Issues
One of the most common performance review mistakes made by both management and staff: waiting for review time to bring up important issues. Neither you nor your boss should be surprised by anything that comes up at your review. If you are, it means that there’s a critical breakdown in your communication.
Your evaluation shouldn’t be the first time your boss hears that you hope to move into a supervisory role, for example. Neither should it be the first time you hear about some aspect of your performance than needs improvement.
That said, people are busy, and many find it hard to deliver critical feedback. If your boss does bring up an issue for the first time during your review, take a deep breath and file the criticism away for later. When you’re back at your desk, you can review the feedback and figure out next steps.
3. You Take Everything Personally
Why are performance reviews so nerve-wracking? In part, it’s because they typically involve some (hopefully constructive) criticism. It’s understandable if you’re not excited about hearing your boss’s thoughts on where you need to improve. However, one of the worst performance review mistakes you can make is to take this criticism personally.
For one thing, doing so deprives you of an opportunity to get another perspective on your work. If your manager is right, and there’s room for improvement, ignoring their feedback could hamper your progress at this company or your next one.
Even if your boss is wrong in their assessment, reacting poorly to their criticism will make things worse for you. You lose the high ground when you respond badly to feedback — and with it, your chance to clarify the issue or defend yourself.
“If you’re on the receiving end of negative feedback, my advice is to use it to your advantage,” wrote Octavia Goredema, career coach and founder of Twenty Ten Talent, in an earlier post on Career News. “In the moment it can be hard to swallow but be respectful and professional. Be a good listener and an even better problem solver. The trick is to be objective and turn the negative into a positive. Take it, learn from it and solve it.”
4. You Demand a Raise
It might seem like your annual review would be the best possible time to ask for a raise. After all, that’s typically when organizations announce employees’ annual increase and/or bonus. However, if you go into your review hoping to argue for more than the usual 3% increment, you might be disappointed.
“If your boss comes to you and says, ‘Woo hoo you got a 4% increase this year, great job, four stars, blah blah blah’ and you say ‘I’m really disappointed in this because I was hoping for 8% and here are all the reasons why I deserve it,’ you are asking your manager to go find money where there is none,” said Aubrey Bach, former senior manager of higher education at PayScale, in a 2016 interview with The Washington Post on Medium. “When reviews and raises are given out across the company, all the budget is totally spent.”
Your review is a much better time to lay the groundwork for raises and promotions to come. Ask where you can improve; check in on goals and long-term planning. When it comes to moving up or making more money, Bach said, your best bet is to capitalize on big wins:
When a big project is winding down, proactively say, “I know this is almost done, and we’re in crunch time now, but once this is over, what do you think I should work on that will set me up for success?” Team up with your manager and be proactive. Let them know what your salary wants are 6 months ahead of time. “I’m hoping to be earning $7,000 more next year — what can we do together to make that a reality?”
Are you due for a raise? Take the PayScale Salary Survey and find out how your pay stacks up.
5. You Don’t Follow Up
Evaluations shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. To get the most out of your conversation, you have to follow up.
At CNBC, Maureen Hoersten suggested:
After the review, send your manager an email recapping the conversation and any next steps discussed. Also, if the manager suggests that you start doing something, whether it’s getting to know other employees or reading a monthly industry report, get started. More times than not, it’s something that will help you further grow and develop as opposed to just being busy work. Then share what you have been doing to show that you listened and understood.
6. You Don’t Toot Your Own Horn
Your performance review is an obvious time to highlight your accomplishments — but if you’re not comfortable bragging about yourself, you might miss an opportunity.
Don’t assume that your boss knows what you’ve been up to. Even dedicated managers might miss your accomplishments if you’re not willing to bring them to their attention. Remember that you know more about your day-to-day than anyone else. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.
7. You Take Your Boss’s Assessment as Gospel
Your boss may have insight into your work that will help you be more successful in the long run. Or: they might just be wrong.
When that happens, the first thing to do is to buy yourself some time. At Harvard Business Review, management consultant Dick Grote suggested:
Whatever you do, don’t try for immediate resolution. Say something at the end of the meeting like: “This assessment comes as a real surprise to me. I’d like to think about what you’ve said and written, and perhaps have another conversation before this becomes official. May I get back to you in a day or two?” That lets your boss know that you’re concerned about the accuracy of the evaluation without having to attempt to achieve instant resolution.
Then, think it over. Be as objective as you can be — again, it’s always possible that your manager sees something that you don’t, and that you’ll be better off for hearing their criticism. But don’t assume that your boss is right, or that there’s nothing you can do about the situation if they’re wrong.
Your next decision is whether to meet with your boss.
“Meeting with your boss may not be mandatory in your organization, but it is usually a smart move,” wrote Dawn Rosenberg McKay at The Balance Careers. “A face-to-face talk should provide a chance to share your point of view. Forgo a meeting if there is absolutely no chance your boss will listen to anything you have to say or any discussion will escalate into an argument.”
If you do opt to meet with your manager, prepare to make your case based on data. For example, if you’re a customer service representative and your manager says that you need to improve your response time or customer satisfaction scores, you might present numbers that show you’ve exceeded those KPIs.
Try to remain unemotional when you discuss the gap between your assessment of your performance and theirs. (This is one reason why it’s best to wait before making your case — it’s hard to avoid being upset when you’ve just received a negative evaluation.) Remember that your goal is not only to improve your assessment, now and in the future, but to strengthen the relationship with your manager, so that you can achieve ongoing success in the role.
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