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6 Tips for Owning Your Next Performance Review

If a looming “Performance Assessment” calendar item has you strategizing your sick days, you’re thinking about it all wrong. Yes, receiving feedback on your work can sometimes be a little awkward, whether it’s positive or negative. But, annual reviews (bi-annual, if you’re lucky. YES, lucky!) can be fantastic resources for personal and career development.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next review.

Start with Last Year’s Review

In preparation for your meeting, take a look at the prior year’s assessment. If you made huge strides in addressing some of your improvement areas, take note and make sure to mention them. If this is your first review with your manager, go back to your job description and evaluate how you’re handling each of your job duties. It may be helpful to jot down a few potential review-like questions (e.g. “What are your areas for growth?” “How would you rate your communication skills?”) and take the time to answer them on your own. If it seems appropriate and helpful, share your notes with your supervisor.

Keep a Running “Score Sheet” Throughout the Year

We all know that goals are set, strategic plans are put in place…and then life happens. Despite everyone’s best intentions, your actual work may not match the goals that were set for you in your last review due to changing priorities or a shifting landscape. Keep track of all your accomplishments, victories and projects that you successfully managed in order to discuss them at your review.

Don’t Get Defensive

Part of your manager’s job is to give you constructive criticism; expect to hear about how you can improve. Listen and keep an open mind—this is often where you learn how to get a promotion or bump in pay. Don’t be defensive, even if you think the critique is way off. Take the time to listen, then gather your thoughts and have a conversation with your manager at a later date. For example, if your manager brings up a task that you simply don’t have time to do, schedule some time to discuss how you should be prioritizing your responsibilities.

Take Notes and Ask Questions

Remember that this is your time, so make sure to get the most out of it. Performance reviews can be a little overwhelming, so don’t rely solely on your memory. Take notes of key points and ask questions if any of your manager’s feedback is unclear. It’s also fair to ask for examples if feedback seems too vague or general.

Ask for What You Deserve

If you’re confident that it’s time for a promotion or raise, a review is a perfectly appropriate time to discuss the future. You’re in a particularly good position if you can look at last year’s goals and tick them off one by one. Demands and threats are not recommended, but be assertive and point to clear examples of your success.

Say “Thank You”

Even if you don’t agree with everything your manager said. Performance reviews can be incredibly time consuming, especially for people who manage a large team. Plus, it can be hard and emotionally draining to give personal feedback. A simple “Thanks for taking the time to speak with me” can go a long way.

The moral of the story is: don’t fear your upcoming employee evaluation – own it! With a little preparation and the right attitude, performance reviews can work in your favor.

How do you feel about performance reviews? Got any tips to share?


  1. I would love to know if any of you have good ideas for the best tool/site for performance reviews.

  2. Great advice in this article!
    I’m also interested in the name of the computer program that Richard mentioned.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Christine! We’re on the lookout and will keep you posted!

  3. Good advice and a great article. I learned to do these things while serving in the military. When I first started out, we received quarterly reviews so it was easy to keep track of your “Atta boy’s”. However, once we moved to annual reviews, it became necessary to document throughout the year. It is human nature to remember only the recent events, good or bad, so to help your reviewer get the full picture of your year, keep good notes. My current employer provides a computer software program that lists our current job description and electronic notes for “jotting” down projects and accomplishments to help submit a self-evaluation to the reviewer in preparation for your final review. Without good input from you, your steller performance for the year may come off a little tarnished.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Richard! That sounds like a really helpful program. Do you know the name of it? We’re always looking for new programs to review.

  4. Good tips, thank you! I’ve been doing most of these for a few years now but I haven’t had a review in two years because 1)I’m maxed out on the pay scale and 2) I work for the local city government and we’re in transition to a new mayor-everything is put on hold.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tana! I hope the transition is a smooth one and you have the opportunity to be reviewed soon. Keep us posted!

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