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How to ace your next performance review

Performance reviews can be tricky, but there are few ways to make them more productive and less stressful.

An upcoming performance review can certainly mess with your emotions. On one hand, you may be ready to hear what your employer has to say, especially if a positive review might result in a salary increase. On the other, you may be nervous at the possibility that you're not meeting your employer's expectations. But there's plenty you can do beforehand to maximize your performance review. Consider these seven tips to help ensure you get those gold stars.

1. Go in With an Open Mind

Prior to meeting with your boss for a performance review, you need to prepare your mind for the possibility of hearing something negative. Overall, your boss may be satisfied with your performance. But there's always room for growth, so she might also highlight areas that need improving.

It's natural to become defensive, but don't immediately jump in and offer an explanation or justify your actions. Let your boss finish and listen to her concerns. There may be some truth to those claims. Besides, any negative feedback you receive likely comes from a good place. Your employer wants you to succeed and reach your potential. If she didn't, she wouldn't bother providing feedback.

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2. Ask for Clarification

You're not the only one nervous during a performance review. Your employer may also be a little anxious, especially if he's bringing up items you need to work on. If he's nervous or has to meet with many of your coworkers in a short amount of time, he may rush the review or not express himself clearly. This can result in vague statements and misunderstandings. You shouldn't leave the meeting confused or puzzled, so don't be afraid to ask for clarification or specific examples. You can't improve your work performance when you don't fully understand the issue.

3. Understand Your Employer's Expectations

If you don't receive a good performance review, the problem may have nothing to do with lack of effort, but rather different expectations. In your mind, you're hitting the mark and helping the company succeed, yet your boss thinks otherwise. For example, maybe you put a lot of time and energy into meeting deadlines, but your boss feels you don't take the initiative or contribute to the team in other ways. To maximize the takeaways from a performance review, ask your boss to clarify her expectations. Based on this information, you can set short and long-term goals to improve your performance.

4. Take Notes During the Review

Your employer may have a lot to say during a performance review, and you may forget some of the important points. Therefore, come prepared to take notes. You can jot down your weaknesses, as well as your strengths. This way you'll get a clear picture of how you're performing as a whole. Taking notes also leaves a good impression with your employer. This shows that you're committed to improving and growing as an employee and giving 100% to the job.

5. Don't Slack After a Positive Review

Performance reviews aren't always negative. Your employer may have nothing but good things to say about your work performance. You might meet all his expectations, and you might be the best worker on the job. It's okay to give yourself a pat on the back, but don't let a perfect review go to your head. Let this be your motivation to continue on the right path. This isn't the time to slack off or think you don't have to work as hard. You want to continue to impress your employer so that your next review will be equally positive.

6. Summarize Key Points

To show your boss you were listening during the review, end the meeting by summarizing in your own words his suggestions for improvement. Briefly explain how you plan to address these issues moving forward.

7. Schedule a Mid-Year Review

If possible, don't wait until your next performance review to track your progress. During the initial meeting, discuss goals with your employer and then see if you can schedule another meeting in the upcoming months to evaluate your progress thus far. If your employer conducts annual performance reviews, maybe you can schedule another meeting in six months. Or if your employer conducts reviews every six months, perhaps he can schedule a follow-up review in three months.

This article first appeared Wise Bread.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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