9 rules for surviving a review time

Hands up if you dread your performance review? Don’t. If you know yourself, know your work, and know the corporate culture in your organisation then annual reviews can be a key step towards a better job and improved pay.

Follow these simple rules and turn your review to your advantage.

  • Rule 1: Know the system. If this is your first review talk to HR or your co-workers so that you understand the process in your organisation.
  • Rule 2: Have a career plan. To benefit fully from a review you need to know where you’re heading in your career. Ask yourself: ‘What does the career path look like for me?’ says Jacqui Barratt, director of HR and recruitment company Salt. “A manager can help with (your career vision) but you need to take ownership,” adds Nathan Bryant-Taukiri, general manager at recruiter Potentia.
  • Rule 3: Prepare prepare prepare. Too many employees go into the review passively, says Barratt. Sit down and say to yourself: “I have my review coming up. How did I really perform in the last 12 months? What did I achieve, and what didn’t I achieve?” At the very least this will give you a quick comeback if your boss asks sticky questions. It’s a good idea to take a written list of your achievements and topics you want to discuss with you to the review.
  • Rule 4: Quantify your successes. If you can demonstrate how you have performed you’re going to be on the front foot in your review. Did you meet your targets? How have you added value to the organisation? Can you rattle this information off?
  • Rule 5: Get feedback from others. Ask your peers, direct reports, other managers and even customers or stakeholders for feedback. That could include emails and, if relevant, statistics about your job performance.
  • Rule 6. Set your own agenda. The review process isn’t just about your boss’s expectations. You need to take control of the process to benefit fully from it. By setting the agenda you ensure that your career vision aligns with the review process, says Bryant-Taukiri. Put your needs and your career vision on the table, says Barratt. Ask: ‘What would my next move be in this company? How far off am I? What do I need to do to get there?’.
  • Rule 7: Think of the bigger picture. Bryant-Taukiri says employees need to think beyond the review in hand. That includes their position with the company and their career as a whole.
  • Rule 8: Listen. During the interview listen to feedback – including the unsaid. It can be tempting to discredit anything that isn’t positive especially if you don’t like your boss. Taking on board criticism and learning from it, however, could help you in the long run. Once you’ve listened, ask questions before firing off your list of achievements. “You will get a lot more out of it if you see it as a two-way process,” says Barratt.
  • Rule 9: Arrange regular check-ins. Talking with your boss about operational matters only isn’t enough. Work with your manager between review times to keep the communication flow going, says Bryant-Taukiri. These regular check-ins allow you to flesh out the detail of your job description, what is expected of you, and how you are tracking. This will ensure that come formal review time you are on track and can demonstrate how you have met or exceeded targets. 
It’s a good idea to take a written list of your achievements and topics you want to discuss with you to the review.