5 Tips to Ensure There Are No Surprises in Your Performance Review

We’ve all been there: The time of the year arrives when that meeting reminder pops-up on the computer screen saying, “Annual Performance Review – 15 minutes.” You let out a heavy sigh and begrudgingly start to gather your materials together to take notes on the things you can improve on and what you submitted for your self-assessment.

Ten minutes later you purposefully walk into your boss’s office as they close the door behind them. You both sit down quietly at their work table and your gazes lock. They take a deep breath and begin by saying, “So not everyone gets ‘exceeds expectations’ on their review all the time…” Oh boy, here we go.

So how did we get here? Hopefully, this is the exception rather than the rule for everyone, but the good news is that there are ways to help mitigate this from happening in the first place. Below are five tips on how to do so (and yes, I speak from experience):

  1. Make Sure You’re Being Rated Against What’s Actually in the Performance Plan.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy for your rating to be based on your manager’s opinion versus what’s laid out in your performance plan. It’s also easy to get caught up in the anxiety present in the room or the sheer thought of hearing the verdict of your performance goals that we can lose track of what’s in the meat of the performance measure.

If this happens, ask to take a moment to more thoroughly examine what you’re being evaluated on and if this is in-line with what’s being described. Remember, your rating should not be based on opinions that fall outside the evaluation criteria.

  1. Keep Emails, Records and Notes.

Never underestimate the power of a paper trail. If any doubts or discrepancies arise that cause either of you to be confused or unsure, being able to provide correspondence supporting your dispute will be hard to challenge.

Emails are your best arrow to keep in your quiver because they contain timestamps and, in some cases, keep a running tally on how or if an assignment was completed or if approval was verified.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Submit a Rebuttal.

This is when those emails can come in handy. Give your manager the benefit of the doubt and have the understanding that they might not have remembered or been aware that you completed an assignment or that they approved a request. However, if you have the materials and documentation that supports your claim, then present it to your boss after the review. Remember, this is your review, not theirs.

  1. Were You Coached or Counseled on the Areas in which You Fell Short?

This is an important question to ask yourself especially if the hammer is coming down hard on something where you didn’t hit the mark. There’s nothing wrong with identifying areas where you can improve but the next step is management helping you improve in those areas.

This tip also is supported by the last three tips. If management did make an effort to coach or counsel you on a performance goal, then there’s a higher probability that you’re being rated appropriately, and a paper trail was created which can be considered in any rebuttal you may need to submit.

  1. Don’t Assume Anything.

You know what they say about assuming. Realistically, we must live with the expectation that our performance review is not guaranteed to be a slam dunk even when we think it will be. This means expecting the worst but hoping for the best. This way we’re not caught off guard when things turn out differently than we anticipated.

Above all remain professional. No matter how tense or unfavorable your performance review goes, it’s important to remain professional. Like the famous quote from Warren Buffet says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Please feel free to share your experiences, comments and tips below.

Photo Credit: Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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