As we head into December, we’re starting to look forward to holiday parties, family get-togethers and, like most people, our annual performance review. Although annual reviews have gotten some slack in the media lately, most of us have no option but to endure them. So, we’ll help you make the most of it.
First, even if this hasn’t been the best year for your company, don’t immediately assume that you’re not in line for a merit bonus and a raise. Although many employers have already figured out their budgets for salaries and bonuses, that doesn’t mean that they’ve sorted out who is getting what percentage. Essentially, it’s your job to wow them and prove that you deserve what you deserve.
1. What Have You Contributed to the Company?
The performance review is all about what you’ve contributed to the team, both in actuality and in perception. Don’t assume that your invaluable contributions to the team have been noticed, or that they’ll automatically be recognized even if they have been noticed. You’re going to be judged on whether you have met—and surpassed—the goals that your boss set at your last review or when you started your job.
2. Act Like a Lawyer
Imagine yourself as a lawyer preparing a case. Start by making a list of all your top achievements. Review all the positive emails your boss has sent you in the past and think back on the feedback you receive most often, as this will help you to isolate what achievements are most important to the powers that be. (If you haven’t been saving all of your positive work emails, you should start. Not only is it helpful for negotiations like this, but it’s also really gratifying to look through.) Take note of how you’ve developed since your last review, and where you stand vis-à-vis your boss’s expectations. How have your achievements made a positive impact on the team and the company? If you’re looking for a more systematic self-assessment before you go in for the official review, check out Salary.com’s Performance Self Test. We find it a little bit broad in its scope, but it provides a good framework to start thinking about the ways your employer will evaluate you.
3. Get Your Story Down
The best collection of information in the world won’t help you until you can explain it well and succinctly. Before your meeting, write bullet points with what you’ve done, plus all supporting number and figures. “I helped improve subscriber numbers” is much weaker than, “I did X in July, which caused Y% increase in subscribers by the end of October.” Pull as many numbers as you possibly can. Can you quantify how much money you’ve made for the firm? Are there any salient examples of times when you went above and beyond your standard responsibilities? Put all of these details into a memo and ask your boss if she would like to see it in advance of the meeting. Even if she passes on the memo, you’re still ahead of the game because you’ve got your ducks in a row and because your boss knows it.
4. Look Good
Dress as sharply as you would if you were interviewing for a job at your company. Don’t wear a suit if your workplace isn’t formal, but look as pulled-together as possible. Importantly, plan in advance so there’s no scrambling around on the morning of the meeting. (Running late won’t exactly help your cause.)
5. Be Prepared for Pushback
Your boss may bring up your past shortcomings, and don’t argue with her, even if you disagree. Instead, tell her how you’ve improved since then, have addressed your weak points. Describe your plan to avoid those mistakes in the future, and then shift the conversation to the positive accomplishments you have made.
6. Still No Dice?
You can express your disappointment, but do it politely and take your boss’s comments to heart. If you’re unsatisfied with the results of the meeting but see that you can’t win, gracefully back down. Rather than presenting an image of sullen defeat, maintain your composure and ask to schedule another review in six months to evaluate your progress on these new goals. No matter what happens, remember that you’re not alone. Go to sleep early the night before your meeting and the night before that, as your body will feel the effects of sleep debt even if it was two nights earlier. Eat a light, healthy breakfast, don’t drink too much coffee, and try to speak slowly, clearly, and calmly throughout your meeting. Good luck!