How to Ace a Performance Review

Seven tips to ensure managers and employees get what they need

0515 Management Matters Performance Review

Many managers see performance appraisals as nothing more than an empty, bureaucratic exercise forced on them by HR. But what about employees? They dread them too!

With that in mind, here are seven tips of which managers and employees should be aware, to help them survive the dreaded event and come away with a better understanding of each other and their common workplace.

1. Be punctual and prepared
Ask others for feedback before the meeting. Answer all the questions on the form fully. Nothing will annoy your manager more than taking a half-hearted approach to this meeting. Remember he or she probably has several of these to do and they are probably annoyed at the amount of preparation they have to do. An indifferent attitude will not help you.

2. Don't be defensive

Take a deep breath. Sit back and don't, under any circumstances, be confrontational. That doesn't mean you have to accept everything your manager has to say. But if you disagree, do so assertively, respectfully. Ask your manager to elaborate on his or her feedback. This gives you breathing space to consider his or her comment without coming across as defensive.

3. Be assertive
"Assertive" doesn't mean aggressive or argumentative. It means calmly and clearly stating your case. Sometimes this is easier said than done. For example, don't say, "That's wrong." Say, "I have a different opinion on that matter." Then give an example if possible to back up your perspective.

4. Use examples
The best way to illustrate your point is to identify a critical incident or event that occurred in the workplace. For example, if you disagree with your boss's assertion that, "you are always negative in meetings," cite an example when you were constructive and positive. This means you need to anticipate some of the fixed opinions your manager has of you. The truth is: words like, "always" and "never" are often exaggerations. They are labels, and it is up to you to cite an example when that tag is simply not true.

5. Ask for clarification
When your manager makes a sweeping statement, ask him or her to elaborate. For example, if he or she says something like, "I am not happy with your report writing," say something like, "May I ask what it is in particular you don't like about my report writing?" If you don't take these opportunities, your manager will simply move on to the next question and be convinced that he or she is right.

6. Don't make excuses
If your boss makes a valid point about some opportunities for growth, accept this -- if you agree. Don't respond with weak excuses such as, "The reason I lose my temper is that people make me angry." Take responsibility. Your boss will appreciate that. For instance, say, "I think you are right, I do lose my temper from time to time. I acknowledge that and I am trying very hard to overcome this."

7. Reflect
Try to consider any criticism carefully after the meeting. Don't dismiss it. "Is he right? Does she have a point? Have I heard this criticism from others?" Again, I know this is hard, particularly if your relationship with your manager is strained. Ask a friend for his or her honest opinion. Say something like, "Be honest with me, do you think I sometimes ..." Your boss's perception is reality in his or her eyes; that doesn't mean the boss is right, but he or she probably thinks he or she is right.

Challenge yourself to perform well in the performance review and the whole process will be a more pleasant experience.

Dr. Tim Baker
 is an international consultant and best-selling author. He was voted one of the 50 Most Talented Global Training & Development Leaders by the World HRD Congress. This is an extract from Baker's latest book, The End of the Performance Review: A New Approach to Appraising Employee Performance.

This article appears in the May 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.