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Prepare for Next Year’s Performance Review Now

Too often, we feel that a performance review is just something that happens to us. HDI Featured Contributor Stephen Paskel has tips for taking ownership of the outcome.

How did your performance review meeting go? Are you happy? Sad? Somewhere in between? Were you calm, cool, and collected because you knew exactly what to expect? Or were you tense and anxious going into the meeting because you felt like you were going into the great unknown?

For most of us, the latter seems to be the case. We may think we have done a great job and that our peers and boss know that we do a great job, but will our performance review, and hopefully merit increase, reflect that?

For many of us, our perception does not play out into reality, and we are not sure what happened. Is there anything we can do to empower ourselves? How can we best prepare for the next review a year from now?

The first assumption we often make is that it is our manager’s responsibility to fairly and accurately report on our performance and construct our performance review. If that is how you feel, you are 100% correct on where the responsibility lies, and you likely will get a similar result next year as this year.

But how many of us have left a performance review thinking that our boss did not fully understand all that we did during the year?

We serve ourselves well to remember that just because a manager has a responsibility to evaluate and review their employees doesn’t mean that they can do it well on their own. There is no one more knowledgeable and invested in what we bring to the table than we are. We know the areas in which we make massive contributions; we also know the areas in which we need work. We can use that knowledge and take the power back when it comes to our performance review.

The first question to ask ourselves is whether we know on what criteria we are being judged. While some performance criteria remain consistent each year, very often business objectives change from year to year and so do our performance metrics. Our management team is often very busy, and sometimes goals and objectives for the year do not come out until March or early April. If you find yourself in that situation, almost 25% of the year might go by before you know exactly on what your ratings are based.

If you find yourself in that case then do what some of my employees have done with me previously, and ask what your goals are for the year. And if your manager doesn’t have those goals mapped out yet, help them do it by providing reasonable suggestions on goals that you feel are fair and can live with. The more work you can take off of your boss’ plate, the more you will earn their appreciation; in addition, you will put yourself in the place of truly owning and supporting the metrics that will measure you.

Once you know what you are being measured against, then you can write your own review. You do not need to wait until the end of the review cycle to see what your boss has remembered and written about your performance. The power is within your hands to control the narrative. If you are an individual contributor, then why not update each one of your performance goals monthly? If you are a leader of teams and/or a leader of other managers, you can have your team do the same thing and roll up your updates.

Finally, now that you know what you are being evaluated on and you are taking the time to actually document your performance on a monthly basis, there is just one thing left to do – make sure you have a monthly check-in scheduled with your manager that is just focused on your previous month’s performance.

These monthly check-in meetings that are based on your recorded performance updates are invaluable. We may think that we are exceeding expectations, but during these one-on-one meetings we either will get confirmation that our perceptions are correct or we get clarification from our boss on what they perceive our performance to be. If we need to make adjustments, we find out early in the review cycle and not during our actual performance reviews. If we have 12 meetings with our boss over the course of a year, and each and every time we receive confirmation on our performance relative to our goals, then the chances of a surprise rating are extremely low.

Is there work involved in this process? Absolutely! But it is an investment in ourselves and in our careers. No one is more invested in our careers and in taking care of our families than we are. Remember, our performance reviews not only impact our merit increases, but also the likelihood and speed in which we get promoted. So as we continue to look towards the future and continued growth, we should continue to take control of our journeys wherever we can in our careers.

Yes, review season might have just passed, but now is the time to prepare for next year!