Overcoming stress caused by workplace performance reviews is always a challenge. But if the challenge exists, it must be met. Simply preparing beforehand can improve the way you participate and respond during the reviews.
It’s important to view these discussions as an opportunity. As well as receiving your work performance feedback, it’s a chance to highlight your accomplishments, address areas for advancement, and align goals and expectations.
By preparing ahead of time, you can gain plenty of insights from your performance review. If you’ve struggled to get what you want from them in the past, then these actionable, employee-tailored tips are here to help make your one-to-ones as effective and impactful as possible.
Preparing for upcoming performance reviews
Get feedback between performance reviews
One way to reduce anxiety over review uncertainty is through constant feedback. Ideally, your company should have a system in place for continuous performance management to provide frequent feedback between the more formal process of performance reviews.
Typically, managers should look to provide regular, consistent feedback through the following means:
• Informal day-to-day communication
• Full employee check-in systems
• Clarifying objectives and tasks
• Providing regular feedback
• Dealing with problems in a timely way
However managers choose to interact with their teams, communication and transparency go a long way towards easing nerves before heading into your performance review.
Document feedback and events when you receive them
Keeping track of your feedback provides evidence of workplace issues that you can bring along to your next review. It also gives you a broader view of your performance ahead of the discussion. While it might seem time-consuming, an efficient framework for documenting feedback can be massively useful.
Whatever format it takes, it’s important to document your feedback as soon as possible, while it’s fresh in your mind.
Think about your personal development goals
Going into a performance review without a sense of how you want to grow and develop is a sure-fire way to make things hard for yourself. Whether you’re setting your sights on a promotion or you’d like to develop certain skills, performance reviews are the place to have a detailed conversation about such things.
Your manager can’t read your mind; if you can’t explain how you’d like to develop, they can’t help put the wheels in motion for you to reach these goals.
What to do during your performance reviews
Performance reviews aren’t a one-way process. To get the most from them, you should engage yourself in what your manager is saying to create a dialogue. If they’re the only one talking, the chances are you’re not paying attention.
Active listening techniques such as paraphrasing what’s just been said, summarising key points, and bringing previous points back into the conversation show you’re listening, and help to avoid misunderstandings, resolve conflicts and build a stronger relationship between you.
Try not to focus on certain aspects of feedback
For employees, focusing on one area of feedback above all others can be detrimental to their performance, whether it’s positive or negative. If your manager begins the review by commenting on your strong work ethic, for instance, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to everything else they’ve said – especially if they’re offering you ways you could improve.
Likewise, if they open the review with criticism, it’s important not to obsess over these aspects in a way that renders the praise you’ve received meaningless.
Don’t be defensive
When we receive negative feedback, our gut instinct may be to get defensive, particularly if the criticism comes as a surprise to you. This is where active listening comes in useful.
Instead of immediately making excuses or placing the blame elsewhere, listen to what’s being said and ask questions to properly contextualise things. This can lead to a more constructive conversation, putting you in a better position to receive advice on how to improve.
Get on the same page as your boss
As much a goal for managers as it is for you, you should both end the meeting by understanding how your performance should align with wider company objectives. Here, you’ll have a chance to set goals, establish new metrics with which to improve performance, and better understand how your work plays a role in the business at large.
Identify ways to apply feedback
Instead of leaving the performance review thinking “I’m glad that’s over”, you should have a greater sense of your strengths, weaknesses and goals. To make sure you don’t forget it all, you and your manager should find new ways to apply what was discussed to your role.
A list of aims, targets and actions to take can ensure the performance review provides some tangible ways to improve your performance, whether it’s developing your strengths or minimising the weaker points of your skillset.
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