10 Things to Do Before Your Next Performance Review

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 might be looking at the process all wrong. Rather than viewing your review as a time when the boss picks apart your work habits, consider it an opportunity to lay out arguments as to why you’re the office’s most valuable member.

Here are 10 things to do before your next review. Do them well, and it just might boost your career.

1. Understand the review process

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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 might have managers fill out appraisal forms and do nothing more. Also, ask whether a review is linked to raises for the coming year.

2. Keep a daily work journal

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A work journal is often loaded with great information you can use when preparing for a 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 might 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

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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. Be prepared to give a copy of your calendar to the boss if he or she asks for a copy.

4. Create goals and objectives for the coming year

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Before your performance review, don’t just 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 might not need them during the review, but it’s a good idea to be prepared in case the boss asks.

5. Anticipate issues supervisors might raise

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

Try to brainstorm how your boss might 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

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

At some companies, performance reviews are a two-way street — a setting in which your boss will welcome any questions or comments. Because this is a performance review, don’t wade into any sticky subjects. But have one or two brief discussion points in mind.

7. Be prepared to provide feedback on the boss

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Sometimes the boss might turn the tables during a review and ask how he or she could be doing better. This might 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.

Any statement that starts with the words “you,” “he” or “she” is going to come across as aggressive. Soften the delivery by starting your concern with words “I,” “when” or “it seems.”

Go ahead and bring up your concerns, but do so gently and tactfully. This is your boss, after all.

8. Make the most of self-appraisal forms

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Before your performance review, you might be asked to fill out a self-appraisal form. If your company doesn’t provide a face-to-face meeting with the boss, this appraisal is your only chance to make a case for why you’re a great employee. Make the most of it.

Within a self-appraisal, you can usually include many of the things we’ve discussed above, such as accomplishments and goals. However, if you need some more guidance, Harvard Business Review has an in-depth overview of how to fill out your appraisal.

9. Research salary data

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If your performance review includes a discussion of compensation, you want to be armed with facts before stepping foot in the boss’s office. You can find salary data for comparable jobs on these websites:

Find out how your income stacks up against the industry averages. Also, don’t forget to factor in any continuing education you’ve completed or credentials you might hold. Both can improve your case for a higher income.

10. Keep a positive attitude

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Keep a positive attitude through the entire process. Grumbling about the review just makes you miserable in the weeks preceding the meeting. It might also sour your presentation in front of the boss. Shift your thinking to focus on the review as a chance to highlight your best work.

Let us know your strategies for surviving performance reviews. Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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