How to conduct yourself during an annual performance review
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes
Performance reviews can make employees nervous.
Common questions that might roll through the mind: What will my manager say? Have I achieved enough? What if their feedback is terrible?
The presence of the unknown can be unnerving in these annual assessments.
But they needn’t be.
While performance reviews evaluate your success against certain markers, they are also dialogues with your manager about improvement, ambition and support.
Here are some performance review tips to take the anxiety out of the process and maximise what you get out of this valuable two-way conversation.
1. Know what to expect
In most performance reviews, managers offer their assessment of an employee's performance and then outline future expectations, often setting a timeline in which goals should be achieved.
Don’t be afraid to ask your manager for their performance review tips, and what to expect from the process.
Are there particular documents they want filled out? Perhaps they want you to present feedback in a particular way?
The review process shouldn’t be one of secrecy, and you’re entitled to know what will be asked of you and the metrics or benchmarks against which you’ll be assessed.
2. Be prepared for your performance review
Keeping track of where you went well, when and why you received feedback, and the KPIs you met and exceeded as they happened will take much of the stress out of your performance review planning process.
It’ll also ensure you’re organised and prepared for your review, avoiding a last-minute scramble for evidence of the past year.
Start an email folder dedicated to filing relevant emails
Did you get great feedback from a client about your timely service delivery? Did a senior member of the organisation praise your problem-solving abilities?
Whatever the commendation, if your skills and achievements are celebrated on email, file them away in an easy-to-identify folder.
If you get verbal feedback, ask for it in writing
Whether positive or more constructive, if you receive feedback in a meeting or during a phone conversation, ask the source to document it, if even briefly.
This will add to the body of commentary you have on your work throughout the year, and show you’re serious about feedback you receive and using it to improve yourself.
Invite feedback and praise
If the colleagues, clients, stakeholders and senior leaders you work with haven’t provided feedback on the work you’ve done together, ask them.
Having a range of people from within and outside the organisation provide feedback will provide a comprehensive picture of how you performed across your various duties.
Related: How to find a mentor
Reflect on your previous performance review
Have you achieved what you set out to in your last review? Maybe you weren’t able to, because a large project got in the way, or the direction of the department changed?
Again, it’s best to note and track these changes when they occur, so you can confidently account for what you have accomplished, and account for when goals might have got away from you.
Be honest and open
Many performance reviews ask for a component of employee self-assessment. This will be a document that asks if you’ve fulfilled your core role responsibilities and achieved agreed KPIs over a specified period, and to what extent you did or didn’t fulfil these.
If your employer doesn’t require self-assessment, consider writing something independently. It’s a valuable exercise for you and will provide more information for your manager to determine eligibility for benefits used to reward exceptional performance, such as pay rises or promotions.
Being honest in these assessments allows you to talk candidly with your manager about the areas you’ve succeeded in, but also the areas that require attention or improvement. It will also make you more receptive to constructive criticism, and able to implement suggested changes and strategies both quickly and effectively.
3. Talk about the future in your performance review
Want to know one of the most important performance review tips? Use yours as an opportunity not just to reflect on the past year, but to plan and share your ambitions for the future with your manager. Perhaps you’d like to learn a new software program, or start studying for a professional certification?
By hearing your aspirations, your manager can lead you toward the right developmental activities – ones that help you as well as benefit the wider organisation.
Related: How to plan for career progression
Performance reviews don’t need to be scary. In fact, they should be seen as opportunities for self-improvement, and conversations in which to plan and prepare for the next steps in your career.
Be open to the feedback and suggestions presented in this annual review, and never be afraid to ask questions or for clarification. It is, after all, your performance review.
Take a look at our career development hub for more career tips and advice.