The article discussed a study showing that almost all employees – including high performers – dread the annual performance review. While I’m not surprised by this information, I think this article gives performance appraisals a bad rap. The annual review can be an important and useful tool for employees.
So why the anxiety? In general, people don’t like being evaluated. Also, most supervisors find it uncomfortable to give feedback, so they look at the annual review as a necessary evil – this discomfort translates to their employees. Furthermore, most organizations aren’t transparent with employees about how the appraisal results are being used, so this can create fear of the process throughout the workplace. Finally, most people just find the annual review to be a waste of time. But it doesn’t have to be! While you might not have direct responsibility over the performance appraisal process, there are three things you as the employee can do to make this experience less uncomfortable and more valuable to you.
1. Treat the performance appraisal as just one piece of an ongoing performance management process. What does this mean? Performance feedback should happen consistently throughout the year. Even if your supervisor doesn’t require scheduled one on one meetings, ask for ongoing feedback and check in with your supervisor about your progress. Why wait a whole year to get feedback from your supervisor? A good rule of thumb is to have a formal feedback meeting on at least a quarterly basis. This will help you and your supervisor become comfortable with these discussions so the annual review meeting becomes just a matter of course. It also sets the context for open dialogue between you and your supervisor, which will help deepen your working relationship.
2. Know what expectations your supervisor has about your performance. This will eliminate any surprises at review time. Make sure you are clear about what is in your job description as well as any other responsibilities your supervisor expects you to assume. Have these conversations at the beginning of the year, not at the end! You should also set specific and measurable work-related goals on an annual basis. Ideally, you and your supervisor will determine these together, but you need to initiate the goal-setting conversation if your supervisor doesn’t. You can track your progress toward these goals throughout the year so you have your accomplishments clearly documented.
3. Be open to feedback. It is natural to become defensive and shut down when we think others are judging us, but that isn’t what the performance appraisal is about. Focus on what you can take from the discussion to grow as a professional, regardless of whether or not you agree with everything you hear. Remember – your supervisor is probably already uncomfortable with giving feedback, so how you act will either increase of decrease the awkwardness of the meeting. The goal should be to have an open and honest conversation that ends on a positive note.
While you’ll probably never look forward to performance appraisal time, the annual review meeting can serve an important purpose, and it can even be a productive experience!
Jene Kapela, Ed.D.
Need help preparing for your annual performance review? Contact Jene at firstname.lastname@example.org.