Accurate reviews of your job performance are critical to job promotions, raises, and annual bonuses. Therefore, it is essential that both you and your supervisor get it right. However, many bosses, including some good ones, may be out of touch with your overall performance and forget to acknowledge some of your accomplishments. What should you do if to prevent this from happening to you?
Prevention – worth a pound of cure
Prepare a list of your annual accomplishments and send them to your supervisor. Ask him or her to consider them when preparing your written performance review, advises John Hoover, who leads the executive coaching practice at Manhattan-based consulting firm Partners in Human Resources International. Focus on your major accomplishments and don’t bury your manager with a deluge of minor tasks. The phrase “you can’t see the forest for the trees” is an accurate one and applies to this situation. Too much information will actually obscure your major accomplishments. Hoover comments that managers usually appreciate receiving these as it saves them time when preparing your performance review.
Does your organization incorporate a 360-dregree performance review process? This is where your direct reports and peers, working closely with you and team leaders, prepare their evaluations of your performance and send them to your supervisor. If so, be sure those closely involved with your work are among those evaluating your performance. When I headed new product development groups that worked closely with customers developing new products and conducting field trials in their facilities, I decided customers I worked with during the review period could provide performance evaluations of me. Their input proved to be positively valuable to my review. I sent these individuals copies of the standard evaluation form and asked them to complete the forms and send them to my supervisor. Not only did customers provide valuable perspectives on my performance, but I believe their input indicated to my supervisor that I was confident in my performance and showed I had a great working relationship with my customer base. After receiving the forms, my supervisor began telling his direct reports to suggest to their customers they do the same. Subsequently my direct reports did the same and had our customers send evaluations of their performance to me.
Provide your supervisor with frequent information on your performance; don’t wait until the annual review. For example, I often see people encounter their manager in the hallway. The manager asks, “How’s it going?” The staff member replies something like “really good” and leaves it like that. Don’t delay talking about your accomplishments with your manager. Provide more information than the simple response of “really good.” Instead, you might say, “Really good. We completed the synthesis of Intermediate 1 two weeks early and are pressing ahead.” At the cost of 5 seconds you’ve given your manager excellent news and a good impression of your performance.
Report information in the way he or she likes to receive it. For example, does your supervisor prefer detailed written reports or short oral ones? Practice getting to the point quickly. One of the running jokes on the TV show NCIS is how forensic scientist Abby Sciuto reports information to her boss. Abby will start with a detailed explanation of the method she used or scientific details of her analyses. Her boss, Agent Gibbs, will interrupt and say something like, “Get to the point, Abs.” Only then does Abby provide Gibbs with her conclusions clearly and succinctly. Far be it for me to criticize super-scientist Abby Sciuto, but she really does need to understand how to communicate the way her supervisor likes to receive information.
Reacting to performance reviews
Remember that your supervisor is evaluating your work performance and not you as a person. You shouldn’t take your supervisor’s feedback personally and react defensively to what is said during the review. Instead, try to understand his or her point of view and focus on the items that came up in the review process that you can work on for the coming year. Performance reviews can be a stressful experience for both you and your supervisor. Being an active participant in the process by following this advice will increase the accuracy of your performance review; open the lines of communication, while reducing the stress level for you and your supervisor.
Performance discussions are a two way street, meaning an open conversation between the manager and the employee. As I mentioned before, these conversations should be engaged in constantly throughout the year. Neither of you should be surprised about the results during the performance review discussion.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.