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Tis the season for holiday cheer, office parties and the often dreaded performance review.
Whether you are a great employee or teetering toward the unemployment line, every employee needs to prepare for their performance review. After all, it’s your chance to have the undivided attention of your supervisor for more than a few minutes.
The performance review “is the one of the few times during the year when employees can get a good gauge of where they stand in the eyes of the firm,” says John Ricco, partner in recruiting firm The Atlantic Group. “Any employee who doesn’t care about his/her review, probably isn’t invested in their career.”
Just like job seekers prepare for interviews ahead of time, employees have to gear up for their performance review before they sit down with their boss. The worst thing any employee can do is walk into it blind without key talking points about their accomplishments for the year.
Career experts say an important first step in preparing is for the employee to engage in some self-reflection to come up with a list of how his or her work helped the business during the year.
“Make the business case – no one cares about how many hours you worked,” says Julie Bauke, career strategist, president of The Baked Group, and author of Stop Peeing on our Shoes: Avoiding the 7 Mistakes that Screw Up your Job Search. “They care if and how your work positively impacted the business. That’s why you are there so get very clear on it and be ready to prove it.”
It’s also a good idea, according to Bauke, to think hard about where you’ve fallen short and own it. Don’t fall into the trap of making up excuses or passing the buck. Not only will you be throwing co-workers under the bus, but you’ll also look bad. “When you get into blame and excuse mode, your boss is rolling his eyes and you are losing credibility,” says Bauke.
In addition to preparing a list of your accomplishments and weaknesses during the year, Robert Hosking, executive director of Office Team, the staffing company, says employees should think about any questions they may have about their job or the company. Let’s say there are rumors that your company is heading toward bankruptcy. It’s perfectly acceptable to inquire about it when you sit down with your supervisors. Or in another example, perhaps you have questions about your role or the future of your position. The performance review is the time to address those concerns.
“Workers should treat performance reviews as two-way conversation,” says Hosking. “While managers will provide constructive criticism, employees shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions about the assessment or request support or guidance.”
Employees who get a good review shouldn’t view that as an excuse to “rest on their laurels,” says Hosking. There is always room for improvement and asking your boss what areas you should work on in the New Year will not only show you care but put you that much closer to a promotion. It’s also an opportunity to be your own advocate and talk with your boss about where he or she sees you in the next few years and whether or not that jives with your own career aspirations.
“If your boss wants you to move into management and the thought of that leaves you cold, don’t just say yes or no – be prepared with other thoughts about what really does interest you,” notes Bauke.
If you get hit with a bad performance review whether expected or unexpected, career experts say you shouldn’t get defensive and instead ask for recommendations on how to improve. The more specific and detailed your boss is the better your chances are of making real improvements.
Hosking says you should also ask for a review in three to six months to assess your efforts to improve. By doing that you’ll demonstrate you’re committed to improving and take the performance review process seriously, he says.
At the end of the day one of the easiest and smartest things an employee can do is listen. Instead of thinking about the time you are wasting with this meeting or about what you plan to say listen to what your boss is trying to convey. “Listening is the best way to get the most out of your review. Again this is one of the few times of the few times of the year where you have your boss’s ear, make the most of it,” says Ricco.