How to Prepare for Your Performance Review

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Many employees think of the performance review as a time to passively receive their boss’s opinion of their worth. If that’s your view, you may be missing a valuable opportunity. Instead, look at the performance appraisal as a chance for an in-depth discussion about your work and career. Capitalizing on this opportunity requires advance planning, so use the following steps to prepare for a useful talk with your manager.

1. Be sure that you have a review.

Large organizations will have an annual review process managed by the HR department, but small businesses often operate more informally. And even when a formal sit-down occurs, many managers fail to have a real two-way discussion. So you may need to initiate the dialogue by asking for a time to talk about your job and your performance.

2. Honestly evaluate the past year.

An annual review should be just that – a look back at the previous year. So you need to consider all the successes, problems, and challenges that occurred during the past twelve months. We naturally tend to interpret circumstances in our favor, so try to be objective. Denying obvious problems will just make you appear self-serving and biased.

3. Think about next year’s objectives.

Although reviews focus on the past, you don’t want to stop there. Once the formal assessment is over, shift the focus to upcoming activities and events. To plan for this discussion, consider goals, opportunities, and obstacles. What projects would you like to undertake? What resources will you need? How can your manager help you succeed?

4. Consider your career.

You should also reflect on your career goals. What training or development opportunities would benefit you? Could your organization sponsor membership in professional organizations? Can your manager facilitate internal networking opportunities? Are there assignments that would help you prepare for the future?

5. Anticipate your manager’s point of view.

When dealing with managers, smart employees always try to think like one. So you must consider how your boss will view your past performance and future goals. This will help you predict the course of the discussion and plan your approach.

6. Set goals for the discussion with your boss.

If you’ve completed steps 2 through 5, then you’re ready to develop a discussion plan. Although your manager controls the appraisal conversation, you can also initiate topics. So before the meeting, make a list of everything you hope to cover.

7. Prepare for known disagreements.

If some issues have been contentious or if you and your boss predictably differ in certain areas, then you need to decide how to handle this. Since managers control the review process, starting an argument will only hurt you. Simply acknowledging the differences without arguing is often the best course.

However, if you feel that your career or reputation is at stake, you may want to add written comments to your review. These will be included in the official record. And if the problem is truly severe, you might even appeal the appraisal. Just be sure to weigh the risks and benefits before taking any adversarial actions.

8. Complete your self-appraisal form.

In most formal review systems, employees are asked to fill out self-appraisal forms. Unfortunately, too many people view self-appraisal as a meaningless chore or an opportunity for blatant self-promotion.

The self-appraisal can help you by reminding your boss of overlooked accomplishments. After all, few managers are aware of everything their employees do. But don’t overdo it – if you boast, brag, and omit known problems, your comments may be ignored.

To insure that your input is considered, turn in your form as early as possible. You want your boss to have it before writing your review.

9. Decide whether to discuss pay concerns.

If you feel you deserve a salary increase, you need to determine the best time to ask. In many organizations, pay decisions are made before the performance review discussion, so you might want to make your request prior to review time.