6 Tips to Make Performance Reviews More Useful for You and Your Manager

Published: Oct 13, 2011

By Meghan M. Biro, Glassdoor.com

We’ve talked before about performance reviews, and tips to handle a difficult or negative review. Since then there’s been a fair amount written about changing performance reviews altogether. In a social media world, especially with younger workers, waiting six or 12 months to for a review just doesn’t make sense.

While most people dread reviews, they can be a really positive experience if they are frequent – almost real-time. In addition to supporting my theory that reviews should hold No Surprises for the reviewee, a weekly or monthly check-in can prevent the accumulation of bad feelings, grievances, shortcomings and transgressions. Managers would also benefit – they dread reviews as much as employees.

Here are 6 tips to make reviews a regular, straight-forward and helpful process:

1. Ask your manager for written objectives with specific ties to corporate goals. Take the objectives and tie them to a timeline of actions and tasks. Break this list into a monthly spreadsheet and prioritize tasks.

2. Set up a monthly objectives review with your manager, and make sure the spreadsheet it updated for those meetings.

3. If schedules allow, plan a weekly face-to-face that’s less formal but lets critical issues get the attention they deserve – before they go into the red zone.

4. Take notes during the face-to-face and the monthly meeting. Update your spreadsheet as needed and make sure to send a copy to your manager after the meeting.

5. Ask how things are going. Invite your manager to be direct. Don’t flinch if what you hear isn’t all roses; ask right then what steps the manager would like you to take to get things back on track.

6. Look for events and opportunities to learn, and include them in your spreadsheet – show the boss you’re in it for the long haul and interested in continuous improvement.

Of course, there are other things to keep track of that don’t fit into a spreadsheet. Remember to note your accomplishments and keep track of ways in which you have helped the company succeed.

Remember to leave time in your schedule and spreadsheet for the inevitable last-minute projects and distractions that always pop up. About 15 percent of your time should be reasonably free to manage time-sensitive, unplanned tasks.

Leave your emotions at the door during your monthly check-ins. This is a time to listen and learn, not a time to defend and react.

Monthly check-ins are a good way to do exception-handling and manage expectations. Your responsibilities are bound to evolve on a timeline that’s a lot shorter than 12 months, so treat this meeting as a time to evolve your job to the next level.

If your manager recommends improvements in one of your meetings, chances are it will be a slight mid-course correction and not a soul-killing rejection of your work. Treat performance appraisals as part of your routine, like checking for software updates and cleaning out your mailbox. You’ll be on top of things and less likely to get an unpleasant surprise.

And always remember: your manager isn’t criticizing you, the person. He or she is setting expectations and making sure they are met. Constructive criticism is a lot easier to take in small doses. A once-a-month check-in can take the sting out of a request for a change in direction or attitude.

Let us know if this approach helps you and your manager stay in alignment throughout the year.

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