Ready For Your Review

No, this isn’t an email I’m asking you to edit. This is about the time of year when annual reviews are scheduled. If your company’s calendar and fiscal year align, then this is the time of year when some of you are eyeball deep in preparing them for your team and others are anxious about the conversation your boss just scheduled. If you don’t work for a company or within an organization where a formal review is given annually, that’s a topic for a different post and a conversation you may want to start.

This can be a time of year so many dread but it is actually a time for clear communication and asking yourself some hard questions. If your Annual Review comes later in the year because your Fiscal does as well, then bookmark this for later. In the best of companies, a formalized process exists and you may even have quarterly review. If you work for one of these companies, you know what your boss expects of you, how you will be measured and you are tracking against these soft and hard skills, even addressing some of them in your 1:1 meetings-be grateful and pat yourself on the back for asking questions about this in the interview process. You won’t have any surprises, are hopefully not anxious and just waiting for your raise or bonus. But what if you are a new hire or you work for a company without formal reviews? What if you just know that your boss is going to meet with you next week and spend an hour walking you through a document which will be filed with Human Resources?

Most reviews take the form of a feedback sandwich: compliments, criticism, compliments. These can leave employees addled and confused as they parse out every bad thing said, think of ways they disagree, and tend to downplay any good feedback. If your review is not emailed to you or you cannot log in and read the buckets of professional development by which you will be measured, what is shared with you should be absorbed with active listening and ended with you asking for a copy for your own records. If any of the feedback is a surprise to you or if the raise is not the number you assumed, sit back in your chair and just respond with , “This is disappointing” or “this is not not what I was expecting”; both statements open a dialogue without immediately diving into minutia and disagreements over how your business acumen or strategic approach was judged. This is the time to ask how you can improve or what you could have done better and it is also the time to remind him or her of how strong your work is and what you add to the team. Remember, any rebuttal is not about how you feel but about how you have contributed. Ask questions if you do not agree. Make your manager go into detail. Take notes.

An annual performance review is a time for candid conversations but not a time for any emotions. If you came to your review equipped with hard data around your performance against quota, big client wins, or an innovative idea that was implemented, remind your boss of that. This is a time to reinforce your value to the team and to the company but it can also be a time to hear what matters most to your boss. In healthy companies, both parties know the buckets of performance on which everyone will be evaluated and employees are asked to give themselves honest feedback, submit that self-evaluation to HR and then at the time of the performance review, both employee and manager have the documents in front of them in hard copy. In the best of companies, employees evaluate their boss and 360 feedback allows both parties to understand how to better work together in the future. We spend the bulk or our lifetime trading time for money and we want to excel professionally and know that our hard work is noticed.

Conversations around bonuses and raises should always center on the bottom line for the company. This is not the time to talk about how much you know the men on a team are being paid but this is the time to discuss the value you bring. Is it institutional knowledge as others are walking out the door and the attrition is high? Are your clients spending more year over year? Did you close a huge deal? Were you more strategic working across a highly matrixed organization or did you ramp faster than anyone else? What do your clients say about you? What about your internal clients or peers? Are you someone who makes others look at a problem differently or have you gone above and well beyond your job description to help out with a huge project?

Performance reviews feel personal because they are. This is a reflection of late nights, missed dinners, maybe too much travel, and your hard work, devotion and professional contribution. It helps to take some time after the review to let it all sink in and not immediately go to a meeting or jump on a call. Even when the reviews are all perfect, celebrate that, let that waft over you. You worked hard and you were recognized for your work!

If you aren’t working for a company with an annual performance review where the expectations are clear on all sides, then ask yourself one question: “Why not?”

Employee development matters. Employee development improves employee engagement. Employee development shows employees that they matter, that they truly are the most important asset the company has. So, if you’re a little anxious about your annual performance review, just remember: you could be working for a company without them and in those instances, just playing favorites and pleasing precarious bosses could be your reality.

Dorothy JohnsonComment