How to ace your job performance review and prove your worth

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Nervous about an upcoming performance review?

Many of us feel this way. Reviews can cause anxiety whether or not you’ve performed well in the past year.

This doesn’t have to be the case. A review can be an important tool to advance your career for three reasons: First, it will allow you to emphasize your worth as you revisit your accomplishments and successes for the year; second, it’s an opportunity to get valuable feedback on your performance; and third, it’s a good venue to ask questions or ask for support/training that you need.

What’s a performance review?

A performance review is a formal assessment of an employee’s job performance. Organizations may use certain metrics to evaluate staff, like a grading system to see how performance measures up to standards. It could be quantitative, qualitative or both. The review is usually done at the end of the year (or the fiscal year), or the employee’s service anniversary. Results become the basis of annual raises, promotions or layoffs.

The Human Resources department usually initiates the process. The HR may train managers and supervisors so that evaluations are done in a respectful and constructive manner.

How to make the performance appraisal work for you

Aside from doing the obvious – working effectively at your job – you can prepare for a successful performance appraisal by:

  1. Reviewing your job description

    Read your job description and deliverables/goals for the past year. This forms the majority of the items that will be measured to gauge your performance. Reviewing your job description will help you remember how you performed during the year, what your challenges were, and what you should do or improve on going forward.

  2. Tracking your performance

    Tracking your own performance throughout the year is important. Your manager or supervisor (especially if they have several employees under them) won’t be able to remember all the details about your performance. In fact, even you can forget what (or how) you did if you’ve had a busy year. This is why it would be wise to document your achievements and successes. You could even write a self-evaluation before your review to help you feel more confident and relieve some of your anxiety. It’s also a good tool to have if you’re asking for a raise or aiming for a promotion.

  3. Preparing three goals for the upcoming period

    Be proactive and set three new goals for the upcoming year. Make sure that they support your manager’s priorities. They should also be realistic, doable and measurable (remember that you’ll report about the status of these goals in your review next year). Have a clear plan that shows how you will achieve them during the period.

  4. Being open to feedback

    Be prepared to listen well and take feedback. Don’t take criticism personally and do your best not to be defensive. Instead, take note and reflect. Ask questions (respectfully) if you need clarification. If you’re expecting negative feedback, experts say that the best response is to acknowledge the issue, process it and offer a solution moving forward. Remember that nobody’s perfect. There is always room for improvement.

  5. Preparing questions

    This is the perfect time to ask questions about expectations for the upcoming year and what you can do to meet these expectations. This will help you outline work priorities for the year. It will also show your boss that you’re serious about continually improving your work.

What if you don’t agree with your boss’s evaluation?

You have the right to an appeal process if you disagree with the evaluation. You can approach your manager or the HR to go over your rating and discuss your objections. Have substantive reasons and objective proof to back up your appeal. For example, if your attendance was put in question (and led to a low rating), acquire official attendance records like a time sheet to prove that the low rating is not justified.

As mentioned, it is important to document your own performance throughout the year. This will be a useful tool that can help back you up in such cases.
Sources: Employee evaluation, Susan M. Heathfield, the balance careers; 6 phrases you should have in your back pocket if you want to ace your performance review, Caris Thetford, the muse; and 7 things to do before the night of the review (if you want it to go well), Alyse Kalish, the muse. Accessed January 6, 2021.

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