Some companies mandate them every 12 months, some are every 3 months while some are never. Even then it doesn’t guarantee that your manager will do it or do an effective job at it. I’m talking about the anxiety-causing time of year for performance reviews. Doing performance reviews has become a much hated experience both for the employee and for the manager. The bigger the team the more reviews the manager has to write and the less likely he or she is to remember your contributions or even value them. The difference between a leader and a manager is that a leader will have system of regularly recording your accomplishments and letting you know along the way how you’re doing. A manager will likely not even though that’s part of their job. A manager is more likely to wait until your performance review to blindside you with a negative evaluation, while a leader will never let your review be the first time you hear feedback – good or bad. Unfortunately in Corporate America, and other forums, leadership is hard to come by these days. Many believe that a title makes them a leader. While others simply don’t care, it’s all about them. How do you make sure your contributions are captured and you are recognized for the work that you do and, more importantly, not get blindsided by negative feedback.
Here are the tips to writing a performance review that your manager will love:
- Take your time. Putting thought into writing your performance will show and will be greatly appreciated. It also shows your manager that you take your career seriously. Most people just try to get through it and get it done. Use your review as a vehicle to demonstrate you are committed on every level to your success.
- Keep track of your goals and results. Though it would be awesome if our managers remembered every good thing we did throughout the year the truth is they will remember some of it but not all of it. They will likely remember the big things you did. Take time to remind them of what was involved with those big goals while also highlighting the “small” things. They matter too. This allows your manager to respond rather than trying to remember what you did.
- Highlight your results. When looking for people to promote managers look for results. Be sure that you are highlighting and quantifying your results where you can. Don’t just say “I finished a big project”, talk about the outcomes and cite metrics wherever possible. Also, talk about the how. If you did something particularly innovative or ingenious to achieve those results, let him/her know.
- Cite specific examples to support your assessment. It’s great to say you are collaborative or team player but these terms are subjective. Create a picture for your manager that supports those type of statements. Briefly describe a situation where you demonstrated those skills and remember to highlight the results where possible.
- Be honest with yourself. The performance review is our time to shine but be careful not to stretch the truth. Exercise self awareness when looking at your contributions. Don’t oversell or undersell your capabilities. Generally speaking men tend to oversell while women tend to undersell. Your manager, hopefully, will recognize and appreciate the introspection.
- Don’t provide wimpy areas of improvement. If you’re being truly self aware you will be able to identify areas for improvement. Most companies’ review process forces employees to identify at least one area for improvement. Don’t put things like “work too hard” to fill the void. Unless, of course, it’s true. For example, I used to be a perfectionist. The urge for perfection, primarily a status women aspire to, was disruptive and drove my manager, a male, crazy. The point was I wasn’t discerning when something was good enough for the purpose it was serving. I felt like every single thing I produced had to be Nobel Prize worthy.
- Talk about how your accomplishments align to your career aspirations. Some goals you were given while others should have been specific to your career aspirations. Don’t forget to talk about the work you did that is meant to help you progress in your career. If one of your skill gaps was a need to better understand financial operations, give examples of what you did to address that. Your review isn’t just about what you did but also what you want to do.
- Address feedback from the previous year. If you had an area of development from the previous year be sure to address it by demonstrating growth. You may have been told to network more. In your review call it out – “In last year’s review one of the skills I was asked to work on was networking. Over the course of the year I made efforts to connect with 15 people, 10 of whom were outside of my immediate working group”.
- Address feedback that came up between reviews. This can be tricky. If you had a one-off situation come up that your manager addressed with you and you course-corrected I would say leave that out of your evaluation. The caveat to that is knowing your manager. If your manager is the type of person that will bring that one-off up in your performance review then you might need to bring it up first. If they aren’t that type, bringing it up in the review will only cause that one-off to be captured in writing forever and becomes fair game for the future.
- Deal with continued areas of conflict. Let’s face it, not all managers and subordinates get along. A good way to protect yourself is to proactively and preemptively speak to it in your review. I once had a manager repeatedly tell me I was too sensitive when I brought certain things to his attention. I wasn’t emotional about it. I was clear how I felt some behaviors of coworkers were inappropriate and/or crossing the line. I felt quite strongly he wouldn’t have told a male employee that in the same situation. I spoke to that in my review. I noted what my concerns were and that I was told I was being sensitive, and I also said I don’t believe that would have been said to a man. Hopefully, this isn’t something you’ll have to deal with. Frankly, your manager may not love this particular tactic but it gives them insight to your perspective they may not have had before.
- Watch the length. Here’s the thing, a detailed and thorough performance review will be lengthy. People of color have to be sure to document their performance in order to bolster their requests for promotion, pay increase, and protect themselves from phantom performance issues. That can result in a very long review. On the other hand I feel a review is an employee’s time to shine. By showing up every day and working they have earned the right to have their review read in full. Also, chances are, you will be the only person on the team to write a lengthy review. So while your manager may not love how long it takes to read they will love that you take your career seriously and ultimately it does make their job easier.
- Read it through before submitting. Once you finish writing your self evaluation walk away from it for at least a day. When you come back to it you will be able to edit the document better. You will catch typos, edit for clarity and add in something you may have missed.
One of the hard things about writing a self evaluation is looking at yourself objectively. This can be further complicated if you work in an organization where the culture is to just get the review done or one in which your manager is unlikely to read it regardless. While most companies require a performance review they don’t necessarily hold managers accountable to getting them done or getting them done effectively. Despite this culture you must take ownership of your career and write a self evaluation that will help you achieve your aspirations. This document lives in the system until whenever. Just because you have a manager who doesn’t care about your review, others may be looking at it to determine your readiness for the next big promotion.
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