Raising a few important points

How to boss your work appraisal

Gathering feedback from your peers will help you to see the wood from the trees when reflecting on your performance

  • How to maximise the potential of your performance review
  • Learn to take constructive criticism
  • What to consider when asking for a pay rise

Appraisals leave you cold? You’re not the only one. Global companies from Accenture to Adobe to Deloitte have ditched the annual performance review model in favour of more frequent one-to-ones and conversational feedback sessions, with increasing numbers of businesses and bosses following suit. (If you are an employer read our ‘Guide to Giving a Great Performance review’ here)

Whether your company has transitioned to a more flexible performance review schedule or is sticking to the yearly thing, an appraisal can be a golden opportunity to steer your career in the direction that most lights your fire while also receiving valuable intel on how to excel in your role (or nab another one). With these perks in mind, performance reviews are something that you can learn to love, actually. Just take the following steps to turn the review process into a meeting of minds rather than a combat exercise. 

Avoid ‘recency bias’

Normally scrabble together your year of professional highlights reel at the last minute? A bitesize approach to performance review prep will not only prove far less stressful but it’ll also evaluate your hard graft in the very best (and most accurate) light. 35 Thousand founder, CEO and executive coach Misty Reich explains why timing is everything:

“Recency bias is the phenomenon of overweighting the work that you’ve done not long ago while neglecting to consider earlier work, for better or for worse. This tends to be more of an issue when we leave it to the end of the year to reflect on and assess our performance.”

Nip recency bias in the bud by adopting a more on-the-go approach to career progression, setbacks and learnings. Misty breaks it down (quite literally):

“Start making notes in your phone at the beginning of the year, bullet pointing your goals and objectives. Drop in at regular intervals (every fortnight or monthly) to add notes about significant achievements or struggles. Be sure to capture any quantitative data as you go so that you can easily cite key numbers when your review does come around.”

A chronological account of your performance since your last review will help to get both you and your boss on the same page from the get go and ensure that you don’t forget any of your stellar accomplishments. It’s tortoise over hare, every time. 

Seek critique

Market research is powerful, especially when you apply it to yourself. Gathering feedback from your peers will help you to see the wood from the trees when reflecting on your performance. Here’s how to go about it according to Misty (sidling up at the office party is not the one):

“It’s a natural human tendency to believe that our truth is THE truth. This is never riskier than when we’re looking inwards and evaluating ourselves. 

“Commit to regularly seeking real-time feedback from colleagues around you throughout the year to make your self-reflection as objective as possible. It’ll make you much more comfortable when it comes to unpicking and analysing anything that went wrong in your actual performance review as you’ll be more likely to approach tricky issues with an open and constructive mindset. It also gives you time to course correct and solve problems that you might not have been aware of before your review even comes around.”

Foraging for feedback needn’t be a painful ordeal either – keep emails, messages and notes of praise from colleagues and clients together in a folder for both easy performance review prep and a daily boost. 

Ask the right questions

A Q&A session could very well unlock the key to a coveted promotion or pay rise, but as ever, strategising and drilling down on the specifics will go further than vague endorsement. Misty has a few starters for ten up her sleeve to help you on your fact-finding mission:

“Identify a few peers who have a good line of sight of both you and your work throughout the year who you would trust to give you honest feedback. Then ask them a few questions, perhaps every quarter, to get a scope of how things are going.

“Questions to pose could include:

  • What am I doing that’s working well and that I should continue with?
  • What is something that I could stop doing in order to be even more effective in my role?
  • What is an area that I haven’t yet mastered but that would be possible if I worked on it?
  • How would you describe the impact that I have on both the team and the business?”

This kind of intelligence gathering is especially important if your company doesn’t implement a 360º feedback review process in Misty’s view – there’s nothing stopping you proactively exploring where you stand, how you’ve progressed and how you could tweak your performance to the benefit of the business, your wider team and crucially you as an individual. Put the same questions to your boss and you’ll be even more enlightened – just don’t go in on the defensive…

Let your guard down

Whether you sense that a touchy topic could come up, or if you’re looking to raise a potentially awkward issue yourself, go in with grace and keep things neutral. Even if you feel that your boss’ criticism is unjust or unfounded, Misty advocates gleaning the nugget of truth within what’s being said, disregarding the delivery or framing of the situation if it’s exaggerated:

“Bear in mind that managers could be just as nervous about having these discussions as you are – as a result they may choose their words poorly, or they simply may not have had adequate training in how to deliver constructive feedback.”

Relate what you think that your boss is trying to communicate back to them in more objective terms to clarify their meaning and try to focus on the call to action, letting any spiky comments roll off you if you can. That said, Misty emphasises that there’s a line when it comes to poor line management:

“If the situation becomes inflammatory or gets out of hand, look to a trusted HR specialist for support and counsel. If you don’t have these resources available to you within the company and/or the scenario doesn’t improve, work towards finding another role within or outside of the company. Don’t stick around until it becomes an intense stressor if you can navigate yourself into a far more fulfilling position.”

If it’s you that’s broaching a sensitive subject, Misty advises first examining your own motives to make sure that you’re bringing an issue up for the right reasons. “If you’re essentially trying to take a colleague down a peg or two, it’s probably best to get to the root of the problem in a different setting”. If you do put it out there, be sure to seek out the broader context of any conflict first and actively welcome your boss’ point of view. Don’t expect an immediate response or solution either – it’s likely that your manager will need to reflect on the information that you’ve shared to best handle the matter at hand. Misty recommends not carrying the burden beyond this point. Passing on the baton allows you to let it go, at least until the next follow-up. 

Know your worth

Doing your homework prior to any conversation about pay is essential, not just in terms of your personal position but also that of the company. Presenting a forward-looking ‘business case’ for a promotion or pay rise is as vital as selling your strengths and achievements thus far – Misty highlights that your boss wants to know how you plan to troubleshoot and continue to improve in order to co-create a path towards your ultimate career goals. 

Consider also where the business is at:

“If your company is struggling for cash it could be the case that a pay rise isn’t possible right now, so consider motivating factors aside from financial rewards too. Be prepared to offer ideas – chances are that there’s a real desire to retain your talent so they might be only too delighted to hear your suggestions.” 

Still not getting your dues? Ask your manager for a roadmap:

“Rather than demanding an answer or outcome on the spot, ask your boss about any specific gaps or opportunities that stand between where you are now and where you want to go. Request to work collaboratively to craft a plan to get you there.”

If you loved reading this, then ‘How to rock your LinkedIn profile’ may also be one for you. Read it here

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