Performance reviews are like a corporate Judgment Day: you may think you’re doing just fine by the powers that be but there is always the chance that they may see things a bit different. And woe unto those found lacking (no raise for you!). And while no one can control the time or outcome of the review, you can take steps to use the evaluation to help your career and make you more certain that you are making good with the higher ups.
Believe it or not, performance reviews actually work better as a two-way conversation. Instead of sitting across from your boss while your every flaw and failing is dissected you should come equipped with your own self-promoting ammunition. If you have particularly good performance numbers this period share them. Have you received unsolicited praise from clients? Show it off. Have you gone above and beyond with projects and other initiatives where you can easily demonstrate your positive contributions? Make it clear where credit for success is due. Use the evaluation for promotional purposes instead of a mechanism for diminishing your self-esteem.
And if your boss doesn’t perform regular reviews, ask for one. Though you probably don’t enjoy them, you do need to know how you are viewed by your employer so that you can adapt your efforts to improve your reputation and continue progressing toward your career goals. And since performance reviews are usually the harbinger of promotions and raises, expecting one on the horizon may not be such a bad thing after all.
Once you’ve made it into the review with your self-promotion pack in hand focus on keeping yourself as calm and confident as possible. And perhaps most importantly, don’t turn the review into an argument. If your boss starts listing ways that you’ve underperformed and need to improve, don’t fight it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t point at the positive contributions you have made to the organization. Bring out your pre-made list of achievements to show your value. And be sure to formulate a plan with your boss so that you can better measure your progress throughout the next period. If you stay in regular communication with your boss between reviews, he or she can keep you abreast of areas where you need to improve, which will do wonders for your next evaluation.
Coming out of the review, you should be well informed of an action plan including your short-term goals and how you can best meet them. If you find that you need to develop your skills, look into taking a continuing education class, work toward a certificate, or self-study online or with study guides. And if your review consisted of a complete dressing down full of unhelpful criticism, contempt, or other implications that your boss just doesn’t like you or your work, you may want to take the opportunity to begin look for opportunities elsewhere.