It’s the most wonderful time of the year: office holiday parties, using up end-of-year PTO allotments and—of course—the dreaded year-end performance review.
These annual performance reviews can be an uncomfortable ritual. No one likes to see her greatest and not-so-greatest hits summed up in a series of numeric grades. Moreover, many companies are notoriously stingy in these evaluations lest their employees use this data to try and negotiate a salary increase. As a result, these meetings can appear to put you—the employee—in an irrevocably adversarial position against your employer. But there are ways to make these meetings just a bit more pleasant and even productive for both you and your boss.
Here are 5 tips to help you ace the year-end performance review.
Start with a self-evaluation
In some ways, this may be the hardest step. Take an honest and self-critical accounting of your year. Note your achievements and be careful not to inflate them because they are your own. Try and view them objectively through the eyes of a third party. Then, create a list of any perceived failures or areas of weakness that may have occurred in the past year. Try to find the areas that an employer will wish to critique so that you are prepared and can develop answers that will emphasize a forward-looking and positive, solutions-based outlook for the year to come.
Prepare the data
Now that you have lined up your accomplishments in your self-evaluation, begin quantifying them. If you helped to grow sales in a particular area of the business, start crunching the numbers to demonstrate exactly how much value you were able to create. If you led an initiative that did not grow in the past year, prepare the data on this as well so that you can show how you plan to learn from the failure or how you are prepared to repair it in the year to come. It may even be helpful to pull data from other comparable businesses in your industry to show how your most and least productive efforts stack up.
Pull meeting minutes, weekly agendas, notes from essential conference calls, and even emails that highlight positive status reports. These will help refresh your memory and sort the best points to mention from the year gone by.
Also read: How to Handle an Unfair Performance Review
Go back to basics
If you started in your position relatively recently, you may still be able to access the job posting that advertised your role. Review the goals and skills that you were expected to have from the outset. Perhaps you may find that some of these skills are being underutilized and you wish to expand on them. Perhaps you have taken on many more job functions than you were initially expected to perform. These are good points to mention in your review and, when applicable, can help you drive the conversation toward areas you would like to be more involved in going forward.
If your job posting is no longer available or, perhaps, your role has evolved beyond its original scope over a longer period of time, return to your performance review from last year. Were there specific goals you and your manager agreed that you would pursue? Were there areas in which you agreed you would improve? If so, try and find quantitative evidence that you did so and prepare to address them in your conversation. It will go a long way with your manager to show that you did not treat the previous year’s review as a mere formality but rather as an opportunity to grow and improve. You may find that presenting your growth based on your manager’s prior critiques sets the conversation off in a more positive and respectful direction.
Use the information to get an early start for next year
It’s now too late in the year to start really turning over a new leaf if you’ve failed to take last year’s review to heart. However, it’s not too late to make your 2017 review a positive endnote to the year. Take careful notes in this coming review, keep an open mind and prepare to take action on the critiques you’ve received so that you can provide measurable accomplishments to reflect your efforts. Hash out a series of three to five top priorities for the next year in this discussion with your manager. That way, you will have a specific direction going forward. Be sure to offer your manager the opportunity to think over these priorities rather than putting him or her on the spot. These priorities will help shape your 2017 so better to have a manager that feels confident in these goals than one who feels the need to quickly cobble a few together in the moment.
Also read: Set Goals You Can Really Achieve
Treat your review like an interview
We are often at our best in a job interview: we’re thinking on our feet, we’re respectful and we’re brimming with ideas. This is the state of mind to bring to your performance review. Don’t let whatever baggage you may have with your manager or the company come to the forefront. Your attitude should be as positive and receptive as it was on that first day you tried out for your role. Embody that mindset and you’ll help remind your manager why he or she hired you in the first place.