How To Nail Your Performance Review

Performance reviews can be stressful, especially when you feel that you are being criticized for your work and/or behavior on the job. The key to turn a critical review into a positive experience for you is to respond in a thoughtful, objective and proactive manner.

Demonstrating the attitude that you can learn from a performance review will not only present you as a mature professional but it will also allow you to grow as a person. Keep in mind that the way you respond to a performance review says a lot about your character and it influences the next review. So, here are five tips on how to nail your performance review.


1. Read your manager’s appraisal carefully

During or following the performance review meeting, you should receive a copy of your manager’s appraisal, including his or her comments on your achievements, strengths and areas that need improvement. Some managers may already give you a copy prior to the performance review meeting.

Read your manager’s input carefully. If you sense that you are reacting emotionally to critical feedback, pause, put the document down if you have to, and read it again later. Actually, you may want to read it multiple times because you may find yourself reacting differently each time and you’ll be able to absorb it more objectively each time you read it.

2. Shift your mind to see this as a learning opportunity

It is very easy to feel personally offended by criticism. However, rather than being offended, realize that a performance review is meant to be a constructive exercise that provides guidance on how you can do better. In fact, if your manager is transparent and openly shares constructive feedback with you, it is a sign of trust that he/she believes in you and in your ability to perform.

Imagine how much easier it would be for them to simply not say anything! Remember that everyone has areas to improve and in most cases your manager is not trying to undermine you personally. Actually, your attitude towards suggested improvements says a lot about what kind of an employee you are and/or you could become.

3. Accept the feedback you are given

While it is human to react to feedback in a defensive manner, wanting to justify or at least to explain why you did something the way you did it or why you could not do it more effectively, resist the temptation to engage in such discussion.

Instead, put yourself in your manager’s shoes for a moment and try to see the world from their perspective. Now, perhaps the feedback doesn’t seem so off anymore and while you don’t have to agree with it, hopefully you can accept their appraisal.

In fact, your performance review should not come as a surprise to you. Deep down inside, you probably already know the areas you do well in and the areas that you need to improve upon.

4. Ask for clarification if you need more information

If you feel that you need more clarification to understand your manager’s perspective, ask for it. However, think of it as exploring rather than picking your manager’s appraisal apart. Ask open questions; maintain a positive attitude and a friendly tone of voice. Keep in mind that your sole goal is to learn how you can improve!

Accept that you are not going to change the reviewer’s mind but you can show how readily you respond to a challenge.  If you’re not sure what to address specifically, keep it neutral and ask questions such as “What can I do to improve my performance going forward?” or “What will success in this area look like?”

5. Respond to the review in a professional and mature manner

Most organizational performance review templates include a section for you to include your self-appraisal and to comment on your manager’s feedback. Do so in a calm, collected manner; remain responsive and open to constructive suggestions during the entire follow-up process.

In fact, be proactive and look for opportunities to work on the gaps pointed out. Suggest how to address them or seek input from a mentor. Willingly admit that you feel deficient in those areas and truly appreciate the opportunity to fix these with the support of your manager and your network.

Don’t leave this year’s performance review to chance. Martina Mangelsdorf created a unique Gen Y Performance Review Toolkit that helps you to be fully prepared for this crucial conversation. It offers step-by-step guidance and plenty of practical tips to transform the performance review from a scary monster to a platform to unleash your potential.


About the Author

Martina Mangelsdorf is a thought-leader on generational differences in the workplace and the founder of GAIA Insights, a boutique firm specialized in engaging, developing and retaining corporate Generation Y talent. She has cracked the code of Gen Y engagement in the workplace and helps clients decipher the DNA that drives talent motivation and employee commitment.