10 Things to Do Before Your Next Performance Review

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Like death and taxes, you can't avoid this dreaded ritual. Here's how to make the most of your face-time with the boss.

Even though they’re almost universally despised, performance reviews are an ingrained part of corporate culture in businesses both large and small.

If you dread being pulled into the boss’s office for some one-on-one time, you may be looking at the process all wrong. Rather than think of your review as a time when your boss picks apart your work habits, consider it your opportunity to lay out an argument as to why you’re the office MVP.

Here are 10 things to do before your next review.

1. Understand the review process

If you’ve been with the same employer for years, you can probably skip this step. However, if you landed a new job last year — or if your employer is rolling out a new performance appraisal system — don’t be afraid to ask for details.

Check in with human resources or your supervisor to find out how performance reviews are handled. While a face-to-face meeting with the boss or supervisor is the norm in many companies, others may have managers fill out appraisal forms and do nothing more.

Don’t forget to ask how a review is linked to compensation. How heavily does the review play into raises for the coming year? If the answer is “a lot” and the reviews are done without a meeting, ask if you can submit information to be considered as part of the review.

2. Keep a daily work journal

A work journal is one piece of information you’ll want to have handy for your performance review.

Your journal doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It can be as simple as a running to-do list. Check off items as they’re done, and add new tasks to the end of the list. Another option may be to print your work calendar and make notes on each day for major tasks accomplished.

Try to keep track of your work for at least a month so you can tally up what you’ve accomplished.

3. Review your accomplishments for the year

Your work journal quantifies how you spend your work day, and breaks it down into accomplishments you can share with your boss. Make sure you pull out specific data points.

For example, if your boss says you spend a lot of time on the computer, share that in the last month you averaged 5.5 hours per day of direct client contact. That’s a more effective response than an indignant “do not!”

In addition to your daily work habits, review your entire calendar for the past year and find the highlights. You don’t need to turn these in to the boss, although you should be prepared if he or she asks for a copy. The point is more that you have information handy to reference during the review.

4. Create goals and objectives for the coming year

Before your performance review, you don’t want to only look back: You also want to look forward.

Create a list of three to five goals or objectives you have for the next 12 months. These may be related to professional development or job performance. You may not need them during the review, but it’s a good idea to be prepared in case the boss asks.

5. Anticipate issues that may be raised by supervisors

Are you always late from lunch? Do your kids call during important meetings? Did you lose a big client?

Try to brainstorm how your boss may critique your work ethic or job performance. Then, have a response in mind in the event these criticisms become a topic of discussion during your review.

6. Prepare discussion points

Speaking of discussions, have a few topics in mind you’d like to discuss with the boss.

Depending on the corporate culture at your firm, performance reviews may be a two-way street — one in which your boss will welcome any questions or comments you have. Because this is a performance review, you probably don’t want to wade into any sticky subjects. But have one or two brief discussion points in mind.

7. Be prepared to provide feedback on the boss

Sometimes the boss might turn the tables during a review and ask how they could be doing better. This may seem like your opportunity to speak candidly, but tread carefully.

Instead of saying:

You’re really rude and always on your phone when I’m talking.

Try this approach:

I sometimes feel as though it’s hard to have your full attention because you’re busy with so many different tasks at the same time.

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