I'm sure you'll all have been counting down the days in your calendar to that highlight of the corporate year: performance reviews! They're a huge part of business culture, and preparing for them is part of the skill set of any effective worker in a corporate setting. They also, frankly, are no fun for anybody, including the people handing out the feedback. So how can you get the most out of this school report card-esque process, and not cause any Office Space-style blow-ups in the process?
Interestingly, the days of the performance review may be numbered. The New Yorker wrote in July of 2015 that increasing amounts of large companies were reforming their assessment culture, moving from annual reviews to more personal, real-time evaluations. A huge study run by Wharton researchers on a Fortune 500 company's performance reviews over a 10-year period found that there was only a 27 percent correlation between somebody's performance one year and their performance in the next. People zigzag from good to bad performances constantly, despite what performance reviews aim to do: sort out the best workers from the worst, and encourage everybody to be better. And only 55 percent of employees themselves believe that performance appraisals actually work, according to Forbes in 2015.
If they're here to stay at your company, though, here are seven things you should always bring up during your annual review. (No, "why are we here" is not a legitimate thing to discuss.)
1. What Your (Realistic) Goals Are For The Future
Your only real ambition may be to survive purely on the proceeds from an Etsy shop that sells knitted Kanye West dolls, but that isn't necessarily of interest to your bosses in your performance review. They do, however, probably want to know what you'd like to be up to next, and how you'd like to grow within the company; the Wall Street Journal advises that you put together a "career wish list" before you go in, so you have all your short-term goals on tap. Happy where you are? Don't feel the push of fiery ambition beneath your loins right this second? Be honest about that, too.
2. Why Something Really Didn't Work In The Past Year
Sometimes situations can go seriously south, and the performance review is a good time to put that all on the table. You've likely walked in armed with all your notes about the fantastic things you've done for the company over the past year, but if there's one thing that can be counted on, it's that your boss is going to ask about a f*ck-up. And that can be either yours, or the company's. Forbes has an entire list of leaders asking that their employees identify (politely and where necessary) what they think might be changed for the better in the next year, from getting in a new technology to stopping a pointless weekly meeting. You've got to be diplomatic about this, though, and don't time it just after you've been given poor feedback, because it'll seem petty.
3. What You Could Have Done If Other Opportunities Were Provided
This is another one that needs to be handled with care so it doesn't seem like sour grapes. There were likely moments in the past year of your time on the job where you didn't quite get to do what you wanted, whether it was getting involved in an awesome project or working with a particular excellent team. Now's the time to talk about it; CEO Louisa Symington-Mills recommended in a performance review guide in 2015 that these missed spots are good things to focus on. But don't harp on your disappointment. Explaining "why you were interested and what you could have added," according to Symington-Mills, is the best way to frame it, because "this will be a useful talking point with your boss when you discuss how to increase the scope of your role."
4. Proof Of How Much You Deserve Promotions Or Raises
Much as we would all like to swan in, demand a higher pay grade, be given a big gold star, and swan out again (likely to Beyonce's 6 Inch Heels), that is generally not the way these things go. (And if it is, you probably own the company.) Performance reviews are often seen as an opportunity to reach for the stars salary-wise, but it's not recommended to slam down your demands. Business Insider advocates another approach: discussing the timeline for new salary or promotion decisions, and coming armed with a heap of proof about why those big juicy new things should be headed straight for you. Evidence of your fabulousness talks a lot louder than you just being enthusiastic at them. You can also check out our guide for exactly how to ask for a raise.
5. Who Else You Should Be Talking To
As much as this idea seems like a case of being a glutton for punishment, it's also an impressive thing to put on the table: who else should be giving you feedback? Don't phrase this in a way that indicates you don't believe or value what your assessor is saying to you; that's a great way to cause a big problem very fast. But, as job search company The Muse explains, "asking for more feedback shows that you’re committed not only to impressing your manager, but to being an integral part of the entire organization. Plus, having those conversations will give you a better and more holistic idea of how you’re perceived and how you’re doing at your organization."
6. Any Additional Training You Could Do
You're ambitious? Awesome. You want to rock at this job and keep climbing the ladder? Brilliant. Get your bosses to help you out. This is the time when you need to really discuss what kinds of possibilities are on the table for refining your skills; extra workshops, mentoring, courses, and other resources may be available but not necessarily visible to you. Women in corporate situations often benefit more from mentoring than men, according to Forbes, so this can be a focus if on-the-job training isn't necessarily available. Another way to approach it? Take Salary.com's idea: get training on your own, talk about it openly to boost your profile, and ask for help to augment it. Show that initiative.
7. What Kind Of Feedback You Want
The annual performance review may well be going through its death throes (Fast Company says it's "going extinct," because it "causes more problems than it solves"), but it's likely still entrenched at your company, as it's been part of corporate culture for ages. That doesn't mean you can't use the prevailing climate to your advantage, though. Don't rail about how performance reviews are a scam that just make everything worse, as that's not your call to make; but it's good to discuss what kind of feedback you do actually want, how often you want it, and what you'd like to talk about improving. Get your boss to collaborate with you on making you a better worker. They may want to stick with the old once-a-year model, but you can't say you didn't try.
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