Performance Reviews

Do The Right Thing

The best way to have a meaningful performance review?  Work in an organization that values the process, and have a solid manager.

We’re not all so fortunate.  Common problem statements:

  1. My company doesn’t do reviews at all.
  2. It’s my first review, and I don’t know what to expect.
  3. My boss doesn’t do a great job with reviews.
  4. My review is wrong!
  5. Last year is over:  how can we set up for success in 2018?

Your company doesn’t do reviews.  This is most common in small and privately held organizations. While it’s terrible management hygiene, if you’re happy with your compensation and development progress, maybe it’s not a problem.

No matter what, keep track of your accomplishments, and routinely share them with your boss.

It’s your first review, and you don’t know what to expect.  Ask your manager or HR rep for tips on prepping.  Ask for access to online review tools or forms that will be used, and whether you should attend any training.  If you’re new to a company, get up to speed on how things work; employer processes can be different in unexpected ways.

Your boss falls short on reviews.  If you don’t have goals, it’s hard to evaluate performance.  That’s a tough one — if your organization doesn’t have a process for setting goals, you’re probably not going to be the person who spearheads this effort.

Some managers hate reviews more than you do.  One great guy I worked for was a review procrastinator.  Somehow, it was decided that I would write my reviews for him to edit.  I’m pretty sure I was tougher on myself than he was on me.  This tactic won’t always work:  we had a solid relationship, ymmv.

With recency bias, your boss may only reference your most recent work, forgetting something great (or terrible) that happened early in the year.  Or, you may receive feedback in a review that you’ve never heard before.

When you disagree with the content of your review step carefully.  Does what the review says actually affect your compensation or opportunities for growth?  If not, maybe you should save your energy.

Don’t allow your emotions to spark a reaction that you can’t take back.  If you’re truly upset, gather your composure and follow the meeting through to its conclusion.  Ask your manager if you can meet again after you’ve had time to reflect.

To sort out your response, call a lifeline!  This could be anyone who knows you, like your cousin who’s an experienced manager, or a member of the clergy.

Is your manager really wrong?  Some managers store up “constructive feedback” until review time.  This is hardly a best practice.  Yet unskillful feedback may be valid.  If so, focus discussion on how you can improve your performance — or people’s perception of it.

Please do not fire off an indignant email; the impact can be fairly permanent.  (Social media love won’t pay your student loan bills.)  If you need to vent, write that email to yourself, preferably using your personal email, or talk with a bff.

Refusing to sign the review document is a rookie move:  generally, your signature simply acknowledges your receipt of the review, not your agreement.

When a review is wrong, and it creates a problem with comp or advancement, don’t fly solo:  get advice, preferably someone who knows your organization.

What can you do better next year?  Stay on top of your 1:1 meetings with your manager:  take notes and keep a file.  Your manager may appreciate a brief email after your meetings, including the follow-ups you committed to — this can help you both at review time.

Your organization’s process and your boss’s shortcomings aside, if you’re having a typical experience in your company, in the short term, you’ll probably need to go with the flow.

In the longer term, you may decide that you’d rather work in an organization that does things differently.  If so, you’re learning what to look for as you research your future opportunities.

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from Issue #13, January 21/22, 2018 of How to Have a Job

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©copyright Anne Libby, 2017-2018