How to Conquer the Dreaded Performance Appraisal

iStockphoto.com |  SIphotography

iStockphoto.com | SIphotography

You’re rolling into the end of the business year. You receive the dreaded email from Human Resources that performance appraisals are approaching, your self-evaluation document is attached, and your department head is clearing her schedule to get all the reviews completed over the next couple weeks. Suddenly, you don’t feel so well.

Performance appraisals can cause a lot of anxiety. A lot is at stake – not only is your employment (and livelihood), up for discussion, but many companies tie salary increases, bonuses, and promotions to performance reviews. However, with a little planning and a lot of diligence you can walk into your evaluation confident with confidence.

Don’t wait until review time to prepare. There are game-changing activities you can execute throughout the year that will help you own your review.

  • Keep meticulous notes about your work and accomplishments on an ongoing basis. You don’t want to wait until the end of the year to recall the important details of your impressive achievements.

  • Monitor your documented yearly or project goals. Review your notes against those goals – frequently. Not only will this help you during your appraisal, but will also allow you to re-prioritize and adjust so your accomplishments and goals are always in tandem throughout the year.

  • Request informal quarterly “check-ins” with your boss to ensure that you and management are aligned on your performance and yearly goals. If you routinely calibrate what you are doing with the expectations of your company, you can head off any conflict early before it becomes an issue. Think of it as preventative care for your yearly review.

When performance appraisal time itself does roll around, most often the first official step is the dreaded self-evaluation. Though engaging an honest assessment of your own work can seem daunting, the self-evaluation can be one of your strongest assets. This is your chance to present an unfiltered version of your accomplishments. Remember:

  • This is not the time to be modest. Talk up your achievements. Use those great details you’ve been jotting down throughout the year.

  • Metrics or other tangible evidence of your achievements will bolster your case. The more the better.

  • Highlight teamwork and collaboration. Share credit with co-workers and departments that were instrumental in your success. Demonstrate a track record of accomplishing goals through others.

 Then it’s time for the performance appraisal itself. Walk into your manager’s office with confidence because you’ve prepared – you are ready! As your review begins, remember that your appraisal should be a discussion. This is about your future; don’t be passive, actively engage your manager, and be your own biggest fan. Consider the following strategies:

  • Your manager has already formed a position on your general job performance, and your job is to influence that view. to whatever degree you are able. The planning and diligence will pay off. Even during a course of a stellar review, be prepared to proactively highlight your accomplishments, and demonstrate the tangible value you’ve brought to the company. If you can back this up with real numbers, even better.

  • Plot your future. Remember, every appraisal is an opportunity to review where you are and where you are going. You likely have a future with your present employer and beyond. How does your current job performance factor into your goals for your future? Build a professional development plan with your manager – an open, collaborative discussion will provide you insight into which pathways are open to you within your company, illuminate areas of potential professional growth, and cultivate new skills. If you truly take an active role in planning your career, this will pay off long beyond the next appraisal period.

  • If you receive negative feedback – and we all will at some point – don’t let it throw you off your game. Listen carefully. Write down the feedback. If you believe the criticism is valid, commit to your professional improvement, and initiate a dialogue about mutually agreed upon steps to guarantee that will happen. If you believe the feedback is not valid, challenge it on the spot, especially if you can provide tangible evidence that refutes it. It’s essential that you don’t get upset or angry, and that you keep a cool head. How you respond to negative feedback will reflect directly upon your emotional intelligence, so be respectful and thoughtful in your response. In any case, be your own champion.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.