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How to Survive Your Performance Review


Heather Foley explains how to turn your performance review into more than just a form-filling exercise.

Approach the exercise positively

Firstly, it’s important to approach the exercise positively. When the performance review goes well, there are many benefits. Trust that the conversation will be relaxed and fair.

Most people have decent managers who genuinely care about their people. Their biggest crime is often only feeling as nervous and untrained for these sessions as their people are.

Being warm and positive will put your manager at ease and is a great foundation for a constructive session.

Prepare answers to questions about your progress

Before you go into the session, make sure you have prepared answers to the following questions:

  • Have you met the objectives you agreed to in your last review?
  • What else have you achieved of significance since your last review?
  • What would you like the next step in your career to be (and when)?
  • What do you feel you need to improve at or be developed in to be ready to take on that new role?
  • What objectives do you think you should have between now and the next review?

Unless you are sure of the answers to the above, you will struggle to achieve the most from the session.

Have evidence available to support your views or desires

As you prepare the answers to the above questions, it is important to be as objective as possible.

Find as much evidence as is available to support your views or desires. The more objective you can be, the less room there will be for disagreement or reticence from your manager.

Be both realistic and ambitious

When discussing your aspirations, it’s helpful to be both realistic and ambitious.

Too much ambition without realism will cause your manager to think that you have an unrealistically inflated opinion of yourself. This lack of credibility is clearly damaging.

On the other hand, if you focus too much on being ‘realistic’ and don’t include a reasonable amount of ambition, then your progress will be pedestrian at best.

Have an open mind

It’s also useful to have an open mind and not be too linear. Sometimes, the best long-term career progression is the result of a sideways move.

A sideways move can sometimes make you rethink what you most enjoy and do well. It is also very useful in making you a more ‘rounded’ business person who is more valuable to the organisation.

Be clear about what you’ve achieved

There’s sometimes a temptation to be a little reserved in reviews. People don’t like to ‘make a fuss’ or ‘blow their own trumpet’. Sadly, this approach will cause a very unsatisfactory outcome.

There’s no need to boast or be pushy. Instead be clear about what you’ve achieved (or not) and what you’d like from your career, as well as the support and training you feel you need. This will earn you respect and will result in a useful review.

Demonstrate the value you have already added to the business

Ultimately, your job and your manager’s job is to add value to the organisation.

So if you want to achieve the most from the review, you need to demonstrate the value you have provided so far – and the additional value you would add with more development or promotion.

Heather Foley

Agree targets so you can achieve your objectives

Before you wrap up the review, make sure that all of your agreed objectives and targets are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related).

This will give you the best chance of achieving the objectives and – as importantly – providing evidence that they have been met at your next review.

Your next review could be something you dread or the springboard to a better career. It’s up to you which it will be!

Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com, HR consultancy and software provider.

Published On: 26th Nov 2014 - Last modified: 6th Jul 2018
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