ON THE JOB by Nancy Clark

Regardless of the process an organization uses, what an employee needs to know is how to “manage” her own review, take ownership of the process. Preparation is key. Managers don’t necessarily have a complete view of one’s work..

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Ways you can make or break your own performance review
From SCAN's Print Edition

More and more employers are rethinking the traditional annual review.
If you have lived through it you’ve experienced some or all of the common frustrations. Not all managers are created equal, not all are skilled at providing constructive feedback and motivation. Too often there are surprises. I’ve heard from employees that the first they’ve heard of any concerns was during their review.
Recent successes or slip-ups tend to be the focus of a review, rather than a summary of the entire year’s worth of results. Managers across the organization don’t always apply the rating system consistently. Thus, a halo effect can occur where an employee’s strengths in one area are generalized to their entire performance. Conversely, someone who gets a negative appraisal in one specific area may find it applied to his entire performance.

Performance reviews leave many employees with the feeling they’re on trial. But a review can make or break a career. It should serve primarily as a point of reference and contain a summary of the past year’s accomplishments, next year’s goals and professional development and training objectives. Traditionally, review results are directly linked to compensation and they can also determine promotions.

While there’s reason enough to be rid of the annual review, those companies that have eliminated the process altogether have usually replaced it with less formal but more regular performance conversations. Other “add-ons” of the traditional performance review include employee self-appraisal, peer reviews, 360 degree reviews, upward assessments, etc. All have merits if properly implemented.

Regardless of the process an organization uses, what an employee needs to know is how to “manage” her own review, take ownership of the process. Preparation is key. Managers don’t necessarily have a complete view of one’s work. Gather your evidence. Be proactive. Keep a journal to note accomplishments as they occur. At review time you’ll have chapter and verse to convey to your manager.

Ensure that you and your manager have the same understanding of your goals. Once these are agreed upon, go over them throughout the year, not just the week before a review. It is quite common that goals established at the last review change over time. New goals may be added and earlier ones abandoned. If it happens, bring it up at review and get agreement on the changes.

Get yourself mentally ready for the discussion. Expect to hear criticism or suggestions for development. Even when managers are happy with your performance they may have areas they would like you to improve or develop further.

If your review is coming up, book a meeting time with your manager. Tell your manager your career aspirations and the areas you would like to gain more experience in. During the review discussion, if your manager makes a general statement about you or your performance, ask for a specific example. Don’t leave the discussion until you fully understand the key messages your manager is delivering and you have been able to convey all of the highlights you wanted to cover.

Performance reviews are a time for open, honest feedback and discussion between employee and manager. Ultimately going through the review process is a good learning opportunity, often for your manager as well as you.

Nancy Clark, president and CEO of Enavance Consulting Inc., is an HR development professional who has been through every mill from the explosive growth of JDS Uniphase in the late '90s to a government agency in reorg mode, with stops at Marconi, Iogen and other hot spots in between. She can be reached at nancy_clark@primus.ca

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