Your active participation can result in a positive evaluation

Think back over your last few performance reviews. You have had a performance review every year, right? How did you like the process? Were there any surprises? Did you take an active role in your performance review? Was your manager skillful and comfortable with the process?

If you’re like a lot of people, your review is not a pleasant experience. Part of the reason might be your manager’s discomfort or inexperience with the process. Why aren’t managers better at this? Most managers confess to hating doing reviews. They tell me: They don’t want to hurt feelings. They worry about an angry reaction, which will make things worse. They don’t like playing judge and jury. They don’t know the words to say. They worry about litigation, if they say something wrong. No wonder many performance reviews never happen or the manager just goes through the motions.

Why not take a more proactive role in your own review and make the process a more useful, positive experience? There is no rule that says you have to just sit there and listen. In fact, most managers would be relieved if their employees took more responsibility for participating in their own review. After all, most employees today work autonomously and don’t have a supervisor peering over their shoulders, monitoring their day-to-day performance.

Here are a few tips that might help you make your next review a powerful, positive experience:

§      Take the opportunity to do a self-evaluation, several weeks before your scheduled review. If your manager doesn’t suggest this, you can offer to complete one. You might say, "Do you mind if I do a self-evaluation? It might make it easier for you to prepare for my review. And I’d like the opportunity to do a self-critique."

§      Your manager can’t possibly remember it all, especially if he or she has many employees. A self-review will help you to get credit for things your manager forgot or underestimated. In addition, you’ll be able to beat your manager to the punch on things you know you have to improve. (Hint: Be honest with yourself. If you rate yourself much higher than your manager does, it will be a difficult discussion.)

§      It’s critical to appear approachable and coachable. If you get angry or defensive, it won’t help you in the long run. You need to hear everything. So, if you hear something negative, manage your defensiveness by asking questions. Repeat back what they said, to force yourself to listen. Ask for examples so you can get clarification.

Here are seven common mistakes managers make and what you can do to avoid them:

  1. If your reviewer seems reluctant to say something. (Say, "If you’re afraid you’ll hurt my feelings, don’t be. I really want to know about anything that might be holding me back…even if it doesn’t seem like a big thing.")
  2. If you’re only hearing how good you are. (Say, "It’s wonderful that you feel I am doing so well. But I like having something to work on so I can keep getting better. What could I focus on?")
  3. If you’re only hearing what you did wrong. (Say, "Is there any part of my performance you think I did well?" Or, "What percentage of my total performance are you saying is below your expectations?" Or, "Are you saying I’m meeting expectations but I just need to improve, or are you saying I’m below expectations and my job is in trouble?")
  4. You’re only hearing about one incident, or a recent incident. (Say, "Is this a pattern your seeing or a one-time incident?" Or, "If you step back and look at my total performance, what percentage does this incident represent?")
  5. If you’re surprised by the information. (Say, "I’m concerned that you’ve never told me this before. I would have been happy to work on this but now it’s too late to do anything about it for this performance review.")

    6         If your manager is rushing through the review or appears to be going through the motions.            (Say, "If you’re pressed for time, I’d rather wait until we can have a more thorough
               discussion." Or, "There are very few comments written here. I’d really like to know how I’m            doing."

    Becoming an active participant in your own review will not only make it a more meaningful process it will help you to become more proactive in your own career development.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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